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Rita Raley

Co-Director of UCSB English Department’s Literature & Culture of Information Specialization, Director of UCSB English Department’s Literature.Culture.Media Center and Associate Professor of English, UC Santa Barbara

Rita Raley

Rita Raley researches and teaches in the areas of new media (art, literature, theory) and 20-21C literature in a global context. Her book, Tactical Media, a study of new media art in relation to neoliberal globalization, has been published by the University of Minnesota Press in its “Electronic Mediations” series. Her most recent articles address codework and poetic and narratological uses of mobile & locative media. She is currently working on dataveillance and anticipatory targeting, in addition to an ongoing project on Global English.

Links: Home page | Literature and Culture of Information Specialization | Literature.Culture.Media

Research Sample: “Machine Translation and Global English,” The Yale Journal of Criticism 16:2 (Fall 2003): 291-313

As the status and legitimation of knowledge are continually re-engineered, it follows that the global business of language would fundamentally change. The field of machine translation no longer truly debates the question of what constitutes a perfect, totally automated, or even high-quality translation. The issue, rather, is functionality; that is, whether the machine translation system can produce automated output that is sufficiently usable, without human intervention, while still remaining cost-effective and facilitating global financial trade. Both Global English and machine translation abide by the principle of instrumental rationality and exist in the technocratic mode as Daniel Bell outlines it, whereby “the ends have become simply efficiency and output.” Both operate in the mode “of production, of program, of ‘getting things done’.” With Global English as a precursor network and medium of late twentieth-century communication, computer languages maintain a parallel currency and legitimation. Like the reorganization of the oil industry after the influx of digital technologies, the old economy of English studies has itself been made new as the market focus for corporations, governments, and schools alike has shifted to functionality and efficiency, and specifically to the means by which information is retrieved, exchanged, and transmitted. Lyotard has explained how the nature of knowledge has fundamentally changed and how the relevance and value of research will increasingly become a matter of translatability into the computer banks: “We can predict that anything in the constituted body of knowledge that is not translatable in this way will be abandoned and that the direction of new research will be dictated by the possibility of its eventual results being translatable into computer language.” English has been able to survive the fundamental changes that have resulted from a re-organization of knowledge and information, then, precisely because it has been amenable to processing as information and to interfusion with informatic codes.

Language technologies are already a significant growth industry, and the market for advanced machine translation programs continues to expand, but this industry’s constant and rapid transformation, its unpredictability, and the unpredictability of its consumers, virtually guarantee that contingency will have a great deal to do with the outcomes and futures of English, even in its current operative incarnation. We cannot say with any degree of certainty what the literal and precise order of language would be were the vision of immediate and universal translation realized, except to speak about its becoming-code, its functioning as a code. Neither the narrative of imposition nor the narrative of radical multiplicity and fragmentation can stand. Instead we have to consider language in this context, and specifically the English language, as a basic neutral code operative and operable as a virus, insinuating itself into various networks, with the hosts accepting, not rejecting, the transmission. This is code-switching of a different order. (307-8)

  rraley, 04.07.05

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