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Beyond the Cybernetic Loop: Redrawing the Boundaries of E-lit Translation

  • Regnauld, Arnaud
Publication Date
May 21, 2018
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This paper addresses a few translational issues starting from three different genres of e-lit illustrated by M. Joyce’s hyperfiction, afternoon, a story , J.R Carpenter’s generative online poem Trans:mission [A Dialogue] per se as well as in relation to its translation into mezangelle by Mez Breeze, and finally stretching the definition a bit, Jackson Mac Low’s poetry and Mark Amerika’s auto-translated print novel, Locus Solus. Should we follow the cybernetic hypothesis, the multilayered text-to-be-translated emerges as a regulatory system in which human and non-human agents are connected in networks of control and communication. The task of the translating agent is to receive, process and return information while metaphorically pursuing homeostasis, which could be understood as the production of an equivalent and stable hybrid form of code and natural language within the target languages, including both computer executable and human readable instances. In fact, translation as a form of mediation is at the core of the cybernetics hypothesis since, quoting Galloway, “… the cybernetic hypothesis begins from the elemental assumption that everything is a system of mediation.” Now as Galloway further points out “information is by definition highly encoded so that it may propagate and interface with agents in predictable ways.” This view is based on the notion that communication between different systems, a form of translation then, amounts to a problem in cryptography bringing us back to the metaphysical belief in the existence of a transcendent code as the foundational ground from which any language will emerge. A code whose key we simply need to crack to ensure communication between two different linguistic systems. I contend that such a view bears, however, two untenable consequences for translation:- the necessary bracketing of meaning found in Claude Shannon’s theory of communication and taken up by Warren Weaver’s cybernetic view of translation (extensively critiqued by Rita Raley )- the encapsulation and obfuscation of natural languages from the machinic agents stand point within encoded objects processed by the machine, which entails a minimization of human agency, what Galloway designates, after Heidegger, as “the Zuhandenheit problem.”

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