From the ‘Cinema of Attractions’ to Danmu: A Multimodal-Theory Analysis of Changing Subtitling Aesthetics across Media Cultures

Luis Pérez-González

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As the ontological shift from referentiality to deconstruction triggered by the transition from ‘recording technologies’ to ‘synthesizing technologies’ (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006) continues to take hold, ‘the need for conceiving of social semiotic practice in terms of rhetoric and design’ (ibid: 219) has become unanimously acknowledged. This need is particularly acute in the digital media ecology, moulded by variable degrees of convergence between industrial and amateur practices. In those habitats where amateur rhetors have gained greater visibility and influence, the performance of citizenship often involves the deconstruction of representation by exposing the cultural and social make-up of specific semiotic resources within the overall multimodal ensemble.

Unlike critical theory and media sociology, translation studies has been slow to tackle the theoretical challenges that arise as digital media content moves away from the normative logic of linguistic referentiality, which assumes that texts should be faithful representations of the reality they draw on, to enable the emergence of a more deliberative and eclectic public sphere (Chouliaraki 2010). This paper draws on a growing body of research showing that the production and consumption of digital media content allows for playful or ethical forms of multimodal self-expression. It then goes on to examine how various processes of multimodal experimentation undertaken during the subtitling of digital media content, not limited to the reproduction of the verbal component of the subtitled text, contribute to opening up ‘alternative spaces’ for the negotiation of subjectivity and, beyond that, constructing – rather than simply recreating (Baker 2013) – the cultural encounters those texts are embedded in.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranslation and Multimodality
Subtitle of host publicationBeyond Words
EditorsMonica Boria, Ángeles Carreres, María Noriega-Sánchez, Marcus Tomalin
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780429341557
ISBN (Print) 9781138324435, 9781138324428
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Multimodality
  • Subtitling
  • Audiovisual Translation
  • Semiotic Software
  • Danmu


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