our words make worlds

2018 in review (Digital Mediations)

2018 was a busy year for the Language Mediations strand. While outcomes from many of the activities we have been involved in are still to become fully public, it marked the mid-way point in the project, and the near completion of what we believe is one of the most ambitious landscaping exercises mapping the intersection between Modern Languages and digital culture ever conducted.

2019 will see the launch of a series of reports on that activity, and our move to more practical engagements with what we’re loosely calling the ‘digital modern languages’ here. More on that early in the new year, but what follows is a rough overview of what we’ve done so far and where our research is heading next …

Our project strand set out to explore “interactions and tensions between digital culture and Modern Languages research” and the first stage of our work has been to map the complex set of relations behind these interactions (and tensions). In practical terms, this has involved a landscaping exercise which includes:

  • Literature review- exploring how digital culture is represented in ML policy literature and reports
  • Resource review – exploring how modern languages are represented in digital resources
  • Course review – exploring how digital literacies/competencies are presented in modern language course documentation online
  • Language review – examining how different languages respond differently to the challenges and opportunities of digitally-mediated research
  • Survey– a questionnaire exploring attitudes towards digital culture & technology in ML research and education
  • Interviews – a series of interviews with various stakeholders, including teachers, students, researchers, policy makers and digital practitioners exploring questions raised in our survey in more detail
  • Data review - a review of data landscapes for MLR. How is data currently used for modern language research, how might it be used, and what implications does this have for broader public engagement with modern languages?

It is impossible to cover every aspect of these interactions of course, so our analysis has concentrated on the following areas:

  • Digital literacies in Modern Languages research (MLR)
  • Digital methods in MLR
  • Digital ecosystems/infrastructures for MLR
  • Linguistic topographies of data and MLR
  • Contributions MLR might make to more truly global and inclusive approaches to digital studies

Our events so far have included the following:

  • Last year, our inaugural workshop on ‘Mapping Multilingualism and Digital Culture’, which set the scene for many of the discussions we have had since, asked the question ‘How is Modern Languages research transformed by digital culture, and how can a multilingual perspective help us to engage with the ‘Digital’ more effectively?’
  • A training event for postdoctoral researchers on digital competences in MLR practice, which we helped to co-ordinate and which included presentations on data processing/visualization, ML approaches to digital culture and digital tools for creating and analysing corpora
  • A panel on digital literacies in MLR at the first Language Acts & Worldmaking conference, which explored how we might foster greater critical engagement with digital method and tools, and which highlighted the need for greater collaboration in an increasingly connected, transdisciplinary and complex (but rich) educational environment

We have also given numerous talks and presentations on digital transformations in MLR, digital topographies of MLR, critical digital literacies in MLR, interactions between MLR & digital humanities and the strategic challenges which ‘digital’ poses for MLR at events all over the UK, in Spain and in Mexico.

Early in the year we also completed the first cycle of invited blog posts on interactions between Modern Languages research and digital culture, which will see new entries in early 2019.

What next?

What we’ve found interesting, and this is partly why we’ve extended the landscaping activities, is how deep (if uneven) engagement between modern languages and digital culture is, but also how it lacks visibility and is not connected between different areas of ML (schools/HE, education/research, language/language cultures). We hope various activities in 2019 will help to change that.

The first will be the release of our report on the survey into attitudes towards digital culture & technology in ML research and education, which surveyed four broad areas:

  • general engagement with ‘digital’
  • digital methods and platforms used
  • attitudes towards digital literacies and pedagogy
  • and experiences with digital publishing / digital research materials.

We also have a training/education-focused activity planned, which we will announce properly in early 2019 and which we’re quite excited about. Aside from that, we plan various initiatives, including activities looking at digital methods in modern languages, linguistic topographies of data and digital modern languages competence acquisition.

See you in 2019!