SecondaryTranslation

The Issue

Everything written has an intended audience. Unfortunately, that intended audience is often not the average person, but is instead a member of a specific KnowledgeCommunity? or field – a document may employ ShopTalk. This does not mean that the average person does not have access to the information within the writing, but it does usually mean quite a bit of work to understand a given document. Even worse, sometimes documents are written in PainfulTalk, which means that they may be (1) written for a specific community and (2) written poorly. When this is the case, the effort may seem daunting and readers will often be discouraged. ShopTalk and PainfulTalk does not however imply that the ideas it encodes are bad; indeed, the ideas may be very good but may just be expressed difficultly. Thus…

Translations for a better understanding

To help the community understand fields which employ either ShopTalk or PainfulTalk, secondary translations of specific documents can (and should) be produced. This way, a knowledge base about a given field can be accumulated which is accessible to a much wider range of people.

This is appealing for two major reasons. First, there is a commonly held idea that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Though texts may be difficult, by working on this project members of the community will (hopefully) gain a detailed understanding of concepts important to the community at large in the process of explaining these concepts to others. Two, this idea lends itself to wiki:

  1. It can be carried out over a long period of time by many people.
  2. It is on one level refactoring of existing ideas so that access to these ideas is broadened.
  3. As more and more pages are made, the HubAndSpokeWikis pattern can be elegantly employed to the project as it grows, or the project can be initially spread across many wiki and linked together with InterWiki.

Execution

First, members of the community must pick an area to study. Then, doing some preliminary research of the internet and existing secondary sources, a list of books/documents to decode/translate should be drawn up. Members of the community can then pick items of the list and read them, working with other members and other resources to decode their selected works. Progress should be documented often along with questions, in the hopes that those that (1) MutualInspiration might be fostered and (2) one person’s questions may be answered by someone who is working on something unrelated. The progress that is documented should be in the form of PlainTalk explanations of the ideas within the studied documents.

As more and more documents explained, major concepts in the field should become apparent. New pages which explore these major concepts across several books/writers can be created, along with glossaries of field-specific terms and biographies of major figures in the fields. All of this can either go on a single wiki or be spread across multiple wiki, depending on the community’s preferences. The eventual goal is the community becoming able to contribute to the field of study, given a nuanced understanding of the major ideas and issues within the given field.

Potential Problems and Solutions

This type of project is highly structured, which is immediately a put-off. This type of project also requires a great deal of coordination and is highly labor intensive. Thus, a great deal of interest must exist for this to even begin to work.

Examples

CritialTheoryPlanProposal? follows this pattern and is the inspiration for this pattern. Much of the work at SoLaSI also hopes to follow this pattern.

About The Name

This idea is probably intellectually closer to paraphrase than translation. However, paraphrase implies (at least to some) the idea of summary, which this project aims to avoid. Pages which follow this plan need not be short or cursory. They simply must be in PlainTalk, or have resources to unusual terms which are in PlainTalk. If you can think of a better name, move this page to said better name and leave a note here about the move.

See Also

WikiAsYouLearn

Discussion

Interesting. Perhaps we can start with something like the "Errata wiki" ( http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Errata ), which currently lists mistakes in printed books. Then we can extend it to not only mention outright mistakes, but to paraphrase a few of the most difficult and the most mis-interpreted passages. Later we extend it to paraphrase/translate the entire book.

Just an idea for how to grow into the idea and get some immediate positive results, rather than try to attack it as a single monolithic problem, risking burnout before we have something "done".

DavidCary

I like the idea. I'm a little apprehensive about how it works for this though entirely – the problem is that whole subject areas are written in a way that keeps new people from entering the discussion. However, there are some books that are mostly lucid then get nutty… I've heard that's the case with The Postmodern Condition. I'd be interested to read more about how you see the small-scale approach going though.


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