Writing identity onto the screen
Question marks appearing above a character's head, text that sparkles and shines, creative subtitling to show the inner voice of a character; the use of text in audiovisual media continues to diversify. An emerging body of cross-disciplinary work examines phenomena such as impact-captions, telop, decotitles, fansubs and synchronous commentary; all examples of text-on-screen produced in both professional and amateur contexts at local and transnational levels. Text-on-screen shapes how viewers understand, negotiate and engage with media. As research on impact-captions in Japanese and Korean television has argued, text in audiovisual media commodifies the gazeGerow, Aaron. 2010. "Kind Participation: Postmodern Consumption and Capital with Japan's Telop TV," in Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto et al. (eds.) 2010. Television, Japan and Globalization, pp.117-150, Anne Arbor, MI: Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, p.119.; Maree, Claire. 2015. "The Perils of Paisley and Weird Manwomen: Queer crossings into primetime J-TV via Telops, " in Beverley Curran et al. (eds.) Multiple Translation Communities in Contemporary Japan, pp.124-147. Oxon, UK/New York: Routledge. and is a “locus for the regimentation of languages and discourses”.Park, Joseph Sung-Yul. 2009. "Regimenting languages on Korean television: subtitles and institutional authority," Text & Talk 29(5):547-570, p.549. doi:10.1515/text.2009.029. Text-on-screen, therefore, is a major site where identity is written into contemporary culture.
Contemporary Japanese media is an important case study for understanding global and local flows of language and identities because of its influential position in regional markets. Furthermore, although the use of decotitles and other creative subtitling is only recently being noted in English language commercial television, the use of text-on-screen has long been a feature of Japanese TV. The history of text-on-screen in Japan is heavily tied to both commercial design and technological innovation. In recent years, digital technologies have enabled a greater variety of fonts to be introduced to the small-screen, and with the introduction of twitter-feeds and digital monitors, the sheer volume of text continues to increase.
Other Melbourne-based scholars with a research focus on screen culture in East Asia include Fran Martin, Audrey Yue and Tessa Dwyer. My own research into the movement of television talk into text on Japanese television involves thinking about how identities constituted in spoken discourse are simultaneously inscribed graphically. Furthermore, understanding titles and sub-titling as one example of citational practices in contemporary media enables us to examine how discourse is recontextualised and mitigated in mainstream representations.Maree, Claire. 2016. "Weddings and white dresses: media and sexual citizenship in Japan," Sexualities. doi:10.1177/1363460716645790. This has implications for how social issues are framed within public discourse.
In November 2016, as part of my ongoing project “Writing identity on the screen: Subtitles and captions in Japanese media” [ARC Discovery Project 150102964], researchers engaged in language and global media, with a focus on audiovisual and emerging multimodal digital produced for mass-consumptions (e.g., television programs), gathered in Melbourne for an international workshop on Language and Global Media. The workshop aimed to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborative work that examines transnational movements of global media. Looking at how text is used in audiovisual media from this perspective leads us to critically engage with identity and language in the context of wider questions on consumption and translation of media from, into and about the Asia region.
Claire Maree is a Senior Lecturer in Japanese at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne (firstname.lastname@example.org)