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DOI: 10.18413/2313-8912-2023-9-2-0-3

Apart together in extremis: an exploratory study of online social media discourse on the emergency shift to distance interpreting

This paper reports on an exploratory study of online social media (OSM) discourse on the emergency shift to distance/remote interpreting practices that occurred due to the unprecedented social distancing measures taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. It seeks insight into the nature of discussions among the members of professional and/or thematic OSM communities. The paper aims to highlight the challenges interpreters faced, and the new skills they had to acquire in the adaptation process, which was greatly facilitated by networking in the informal online communities. The reported case study is based on a small purpose-built corpus of user-generated content (65.4K tokens) published by the members of international OSM groups related to translation and interpreting. The sample includes posts and comments in the English language published in 2020 featuring references to distance interpreting. The keywords used in the selection process include remote (interpreting), distance (interpreting), RSI, VRI, consec, consecutive, zoom. The study uses basic corpus statistics, such as frequency and keyword analysis, as well as collocation graphs and networks to identify the major discussion points. Although the generalisability of the study is limited, it reveals key themes in the groups’ discourse, which include the technical challenges (hardware, software/platforms and interpreter’s home studio), opportunities for informal professional development, and peer instrumental and emotional support in the translation and interpreting community. Other associations with this emergency shift in the groups’ discourse include deep collegiality, compassion, and gratitude to peers for their contribution.

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