Investigating the ergonomics of the technologized translation workplace
Ehrensberger-Dow, Maureen; Hunziker Heeb, Andrea (2015). Investigating the ergonomics of the technologized translation workplace. In: Translation Process Research Workshop 4. Conference paper. (15-17 Jan 2015). Gran Canaria: Las Palmas.
The reality of professional translation in knowledge economies in the digital age is intensive human-machine interaction and highly technologized workplaces. Humans and machines can reasonably be considered to impact on, and adjust to, each other in order to respond to disturbances and meet new demands. Ideally, technology facilitates or contributes to optimizing human performance, but systems can sometimes react inappropriately and actually impede it. Translation studies has shown a growing interest in translation as a system that involves not only multiple agents but also human-computer interactions. An ergonomic perspective of professional translation can provide an appropriate framework to investigate the impact of various factors on the situated activity of translation. For example, understanding how translators use existing technology contributes to developing and optimizing CAT tools as well as motivating the need for individual adaptations to be built into technologies and systems when indicated. And a lack of feedback loops at crucial points may result is missed opportunities for developing adaptive expertise within the system.
Translation process research and cognitive translatology has used a variety of methods to gain information about the internal processes and decision-making involved in translation work, many of which have been employed in our recent investigations of professional translation (e.g., screen and video recordings at the workplace, interviews, questionnaires, eye tracking, computer logging, usability experiments, and retrospective verbalizations). Models of situated cognition, adaptive expertise, and ergonomics provide the framework to assess and describe the cognitive and organizational factors that impact on the situated activity of professional translation. A large corpus of data collected in a previous longitudinal study of translation competence served as a source of indications of ergonomic issues to form hypotheses which were refined with data from on-site ergonomic assessments and recordings of three groups of professional translators (i.e. commercial, government, and freelance). In subsequent phases of the project, some of the hypotheses were tested with experiments in a usability lab and an online survey. The data from each project phase has been analyzed for indicators of cognitive dissonance attributable to the ergonomics of the human-computer interfaces or workplace conditions and triangulated with the findings from the other phases. Our research suggests that a heightened appreciation of the importance of ergonomic resources, tools, settings, equipment, and organizational systems can help translators and companies design more efficient and user-oriented workplaces, tools, and workflows.