Fansubbing from Spanish to Chinese: organization, roles and norms in collaborative writing



Objective. This paper documents and analyzes how the members of an online community of fansubbers collaborate to subtitle Hispanic series and films in Chinese. In order to understand how this community organizes itself on the Internet to satisfactorily complete such a complex multimodal and multilingual process, the paper focuses on the community members’ roles and chain of production, the virtual spaces in which they work, their self-regulation strategies and the ethical issues they face.

Methodology. The authors used qualitative content analysis and discourse analysis of a corpus composed with the help of netnographic techniques, including semi-structured interviews, participant observation and field notes.

Results. The community was found to have a hierarchical structure, where a small group of managing members coordinated the others, who completed different tasks (e.g., transcription, synchronization, translation) in the overall collaborative project. The community took advantage of existing virtual spaces (e.g., official forums, social networks, online chats) to organize and promote its work and to develop a complete system of self-regulation, from recruitment to further training and evaluation with performance management. The authors conclude that fansubbers are cautious volunteers who make their own rules to protect and legitimize their community, which consists of freelance translators and technicians who are amateurs but who take their work seriously. These volunteers collaborate efficiently on the Internet, maintaining strict quality standards in their subtitling, and are supported by active audiences. Empowered in the digital age, this community is revolutionizing traditional modalities of reading and writing, recreating media products in an original way to meet the emerging needs of viewers.


Objectiu: documentar i analitzar la cooperació en línia d'una comunitat digital que subtitula sèries i pel·lícules hispanes al xinès; estudiar-ne els rols i les funcions, la cadena de treball, els espais virtuals, les estratègies d'autoregulació i les qüestions ètiques, i conèixer com s'organitzen a la xarxa per complir satisfactòriament una tasca multimodal i plurilingüe tan complexa.

Metodologia: anàlisi qualitativa de contingut i anàlisi del discurs sobre un corpus extret mitjançant tècniques de la netnografia, que inclou entrevistes semiestructurades, observació participant i notes de camp.

Resultats: la comunitat té una estructura jeràrquica. Una direcció reduïda coordina els altres membres, que exerceixen diferents funcions (transcripció, sincronització, traducció) en el treball col·laboratiu sobre el producte subtitulat; aprofita diferents espais virtuals (el fòrum oficial, les xarxes socials, els xats) per organitzar-se i promocionar-se, i desenvolupa un sistema complet d'autoregulació, des del reclutament fins a la formació i l’avaluació del rendiment de cada membre. Considerem que els fansubbers són voluntaris prudents (elaboren la seva pròpia normativa per tal de legitimar-se), traductors i tècnics aficionats però autònoms i seriosos (cooperen de manera eficient a la xarxa i exerceixen un control de qualitat estricte sobre els subtítols), que s'adrecen a audiències actives i apoderades en l'era digital. Aquesta pràctica revoluciona les modalitats tradicionals de lectura i escriptura, i recrea de manera original els productes mediàtics per satisfer les necessitats emergents dels espectadors.


Objetivo: documentar y analizar la cooperación en línea de una comunidad digital que subtitula series y películas hispanas al chino, estudiando los roles y las funciones, la cadena de trabajo, los espacios virtuales, las estrategias de autorregulación y las cuestiones éticas, para conocer cómo se organizan en la red para cumplir satisfactoriamente una tarea multimodal y plurilingüe tan compleja.

Metodología: análisis cualitativo de contenido y análisis del discurso sobre un corpus compuesto mediante técnicas de la netnografía, que incluyen entrevistas semiestructuradas, observación participante y notas de campo.

Resultados: la comunidad tiene una estructura jerárquica. Una dirección reducida coordina a los demás miembros, que desempeñan distintas funciones (transcripción, sincronización, traducción) en el trabajo colaborativo sobre el producto subtitulado; aprovecha diferentes espacios virtuales (foro oficial, redes sociales, chats) para organizarse y promocionarse, y desarrolla un sistema completo de autorregulación, desde el reclutamiento hasta la formación y evaluación del rendimiento de cada miembro. Consideramos que los fansubbers son voluntarios cautos (elaboran su propia normativa para legitimarse), traductores y técnicos aficionados pero autónomos y serios (cooperan de manera eficiente en la red y ejercen un estricto control de calidad sobre los subtítulos), que se dirigen a audiencias activas y empoderadas en la era digital. Esa práctica revoluciona las modalidades tradicionales de lectura y escritura, recreando de manera original los productos mediáticos para satisfacer las necesidades emergentes de los espectadores.



Audiovisual translation is a sophisticated linguistic task, particularly challenging in the case of typologically distant languages such as when it involves producing subtitles for TV series and films by translating from Spanish into Chinese. Usually it is carried out by highly qualified professional teams, with sufficient technological and linguistic resources and elevated costs covered by television companies, and indirectly, by thousands of viewers. However, in fansub communities a heterogeneous group of aficionados (fans) undertake the task amateurishly, for free and online; they do not possess the degree of training and resources that the professionals have, but they do share a passion for popular media products, and an interest in the country’s language and culture, as well as a commitment to the community. With all of this they manage to produce a sophisticated collaborative output, producing effectively subtitled episodes that attract a growing number of followers on the Internet.

This phenomenon is known as fansubbing (abbreviation of fan-subtitling) and the subtitlers are called fansubbers. Their products are called fansubs, which can be any type of audiovisual material (series, film, documentary), as long as it is translated by fans. In Spanish, the English word has also been adopted as the proper term (Ferrer Simó, 2005).

In China, due to government restrictions on the import of foreign cultural products, fansubs have become a convenient¾and sometimes the only¾access to foreign culture. During recent years, thanks to the dissemination of digital subtitling and editing programs, Chinese fansubbers have flourished and have translated media products from almost all over the world.

We aim to analyze how fansubbers are organized online to solve an enterprise of such complexity successfully: how they transcribe Spanish films and TV series that simulate fast and colloquial oral register and then produce Chinese subtitles through translation. This activity has passed almost unnoticed until recently (Martínez García, 2011) and is even more unknown in the Spanish-Chinese language combination. Previous studies treat fansubbing as being static, so they are limited to describing either discursive particularities in the translation or technologies involved in the production and distribution of fansubs (Li, 2015).

In this case study, fansubs are considered to represent a form of "collective intelligence" (Lévy, 1997), which expands the community’s productive capacity, since it frees the individuals from the limitations of their memory, and enables the group to act upon a broader range of expertise. Therefore, the study focuses on the description and analysis of their online cooperation practices. A dynamic, global and emic perspective is adopted to describe and understand the community’s organization, their multimodal and plurilingual tasks as well as the digital identity.

The questions addressed in this article are as follows. How is the community structured? What are each member’s roles and functions? Where do they interact on the Internet? How are new members recruited and trained? How do they compare what they do to professional translation? Moreover, we explore why these conditions contribute (or not) to the group’s collective intelligence; to what extent fansubbers are motivated, productive and empowered (or self-constrained) as young fanatics, volunteers and members of an amateur group in the digital and globalized age.


2 Theoretical framework

First of all, this interdisciplinary study is based on previous research on fans, which considers one of the essential characteristics of fansubbing productivity (Fiske, 1992; Hills, 2013). According to Wirman (2007), besides producing meanings, interpretations and identities, fans create new and altered cultural texts. Fan texts (such as fanfiction, fanzines, or other forms of fan art) are popular objects of study in research about fandom, the kingdom of fans. Depending on the degree of devotion or fanaticism, producers vary among fans, sectarians, or enthusiasts, until they assimilate professional qualities (Abercrombie & Longhurst, 1998; Sandvoss, 2005).

For Jenkins (2006), productivity is one of the key components of participatory culture: fans are often organized in online communities, where they feel free and esteemed enough to create, share and exchange their artwork. From an intercultural perspective, several researches in communication studies emphasize the influence of fansubbing on the global distribution of cultural products (Barra, 2009; Lee, 2011). In China, it is also believed to represent the country’s cyber culture, and functions as a highway for China’s integration in the globalization process (Tian, 2011).

Second, fansubbing also constitutes the most relevant manifestation of fan translation (Díaz-Cintas & Sánchez, 2006). This type of audiovisual translation is related to vernacular literacy practices (Barton & Hamilton, 2012), which refer to writing and reading in personal and private settings, within the field of New Literacy Studies. Some authors highlight the amateur characteristic of "subtitles made by fans for fans" (Ferrer Simó, 2005; González, 2007), while more recent studies argue that the quality of certain fansubs can almost compete with the professional standards, or even complements, benefits or promotes professional work (Ortabasi, 2007, Martínez García, 2011).

Finally, it should be noted that with the development of ICT and Web 2.0 (e.g., social media, wikis, blogs), literacy practices have diversified, fansubbing being a case in point. According to Barton & Lee (2013), literacy practices in ICT are the source of creativity, invention and originality; and they are appreciated in media culture. This is crucial when it comes to understanding why our participants join certain digital communities, why they develop new categories of literacy practices (parallel to the dominant practices, regulated and promoted by official institutions) and why they even seek to build, recreate and claim their own digital identity.


3 Methodology

The netnographic perspective is adopted (Kozinets, 2010; Li, 2015) here, adapting traditional ethnography to the virtual context in which fan communities emerge. Following Kozinets (2010), first we identified the fieldsite, which we name "The Burrow" (TB), through convenience sampling: our key informant ¾whom we call Kiwi¾ is a friend of the first researcher. Kiwi joined the group in 2013, worked first as a transcriber, then as a translator, and now leads one of the subgroups. Thanks to her mediation we were able to enter the community and get in contact with two relevant secondary informants: the sub-administrator of all Spanish-language groups (Moisés) and the general administrator (Shin).

Meanwhile, several searches on the Internet (using Baidu)1 confirmed the suitability of this community as the object of study. TB has its own article in Baidu Baike,2 according to which the group has a history of more than 6 years and a surprising level of productivity (including 9 subtitled series, corresponding to 328 episodes; 13 ongoing series in several languages; 40 films). It also enjoys a stable number of followers (several thousand), who show their support by posting positive comments, forwarding or pressing the "like" button in different forums. Finally, TB has a specific subgroup for Spanish-language series and films, which fits a future PhD research project.

During data collection, three informants complemented each other in interviews and chats, thanks to their different roles and functions in the community; on the other hand, we used participant observation following the recruitment process and we became fansubbers. This provided us with an emic vision and adequate methodological triangulation (Denzin, 1970), from which the following large, heterogeneous corpus was compiled, cyclically (Androutsopoulos, 2013) between February and June 2016: 162 documents and multimedia content generated by group members [websites, subtitled episodes and films, group rules and declarations]; 31 multimodal artifacts produced as fansubber [emails and test, source-text videos, subtitles and chat logs]; 9 semi-structured in depth interviews, conducted face-to-face with Kiwi (3 hours) and by chat with Shin and Moisés [9,079 characters3 and 13 images]; 50 asynchronous chat conversations with three informants [7,056 characters, 4,190 seconds of voice messages and 4 images], and 30 pages of fieldnotes.

The whole corpus was processed digitally and part of it was translated to be presented here. A previous qualitative content analysis (Cáceres, 2008) served as the basis to develop two key themes: organization and practice. The data was classified and the subsequent codification was performed following the categories proposed by Valero-Porras & Cassany (2016), in this same volume: 1) functions; 2) spaces; 3) tools, and 4) ethical norms. At the same time, the analysis was inspired by published research on Chinese fansubs (Tian, 2011; Li, 2015), which explain the recruitment process and self-regulation strategies. Finally, discourse analysis was used to interpret the fansubbers’ digital identities.


4 Results

4.1 The community

Created in 2012, "The Burrow" (TB) is dedicated mainly to translating TV series and films from English and Spanish, which have quality and recognition abroad, but have not yet officially reached China. Their productions include classic TV series from different countries, like The Lost World (United Kingdom), Física o Química (Spain) or Yo soy Betty, la fea(Colombia) among other things. The group prioritizes the product quality (accuracy and consistency of subtitles and translation) over the updating speed (publish popular series soon after released in countries of origin).

TB has about 250 active members, divided into three subgroups: Spanish, English and postproduction (Figure 1). The Spanish subgroup makes up half of the community (125 members), with fansubbers from mainland China and Taiwan, in addition to one Spaniard and one Colombian; most members live in China, but there are also students and professionals based in Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Chile. According to Shin, the administrator, Spanish and English subgroups follow the same stages in subtitling and translating Spanish-language and English-language source-text materials, respectively, and the third subgroup is responsible for composing the complex multimodal products (with Spanish audio, Spanish subtitles in Latin alphabet and translation in Chinese characters). Within the Spanish subgroup, 20 members translate news in newspapers like El País or El Mundo, and the rest (about 105) are fansubbers of TV series and films. They have completed subtitling three seasons of a TV series and have another four series in process, including Física o Química ¾where the field observation took place.

Composition of the community (own elaboration)

Figure 1. Composition of the community (own elaboration)


4.2 Online Organization

4.2.1 Roles and Functions

In the community a two-tier hierarchical organization can be distinguished, having a managerial level and a subtitlers’ level. The administrator of the group (组长), who is also called boss, is above the sub-administrators for each subgroup (English, Spanish, postproduction) and the "director" (also known as "supervisor") who is responsible for each series. In addition to assuming his own tasks, the boss oversees other matters such as recruitment, monthly meetings, elaboration of rules and declarations, and is the moderator of the chats.

All of the other members carry out specific tasks according to their roles, sequentially and cooperatively, in the production cycle of a fansub, or subtitled and translated episode. The source-text material is found and downloaded by the source personnel (片源君), usually via BitTorrent servers (multimedia documents sharing website under pseudonyms). The source text is then sent to the corresponding group, which initiates the collaborative subtitling process, under the director’s supervision.

  • Transcribers transcribe the spoken audio of the source video in writing by means of a word processor (usually Microsoft Word). It is a demanding task requiring an advanced language level. In order to tackle the difficulties involved in oral comprehension of fast, and frequently colloquial dialogues, fansubbers have benefited from their practice to develop a series of strategies (e.g., slow down the display speed, use reference subtitles). They must also be scrupulous in respecting certain writing conventions (unified typography format) which are stipulated to facilitate a subsequent stage where other members have to understand and insert the text in the video.

Screenshot of transcription

Figure 2. Screenshot of transcription

  • Correctors point out any content and formatting errors they may find in the transcriptions, and they try to figure out messages marked as "XXX", which are fast or difficult words that the transcriber could not make out.

  • Timers synchronize the transcription with the video (i.e., they do the spotting), so that each subtitle appears and disappears at the right time, in the appropriate frame. The professional program Aegisub is used to produce subtitles in .srt or .ass format. Timers also decide when it is necessary to modify the length of transcription in order to fit the size of each screen. At first this can be time consuming, but it speeds up with the benefit of experience and hotkeys, and the timer eventually becomes really skilful.

Screenshot of timing

Figure 3. Screenshot of timing

  • Translators also use Aegisub to translate spoken and transcribed Spanish into written Chinese, in the text window on the right side, in the program. The code "\N" is typed so that the Chinese characters start in a new line when they are displayed with the video. The Mandarin translation must be understandable and must respect certain norms: redundant interjections are not translated, and non-emotional punctuations such as "," or "." are omitted. However, a certain degree of creative rendering is also highly valued and promoted. In general, only one job is assigned to each person, but exceptionally it is possible for a translator who has passed the transcription test (see 4.3) to do this job and vice versa.

Screenshot of translation

Figure 4. Screenshot of translation

  • Editors control the content quality and translation style, and they review the synchronization of the videos and their subtitles. They are usually "perfectionists", proficient in language and technical knowhow, to be able to make the necessary modifications in Aegisub.

Once the director has the synchronized and revised bilingual subtitles, they are then handed over to the postproduction subgroup to produce and distribute the final version:

  • Typesetters use Aegisub to adjust the typography of Spanish letters and Chinese characters according to the typical TB style. They also add credit titles (pseudonyms of all fansubbers that participated in subtitling) next to the producers’ names of the episode (Figure 5). Finally, they follow the common practice of adding their code of ethics at the beginning of the series (4.4).

Screenshot of credit titles of听写 (transcribers)

Figure 5. Screenshot of credit titles of听写 (transcribers)

  • Encoders convert the video and the subtitles into a single file, which in TB is usually mp4, so that it can be easily displayed on all media platforms. The professional program MeGUI is used to optimize the quality of the video with a reasonable size, through calculations and changes of different parameters, thus avoiding possible distortions of the sound or the picture.

  • In the last stage, the director in charge of the series uploads the new episode to the forum, and writes an attractive summary to inform the fans, without any unwanted spoilers. If there are any specific needs, some fansubbers also perform artistic activities for the promotion of the community (e.g., design a logo).

4.2.2. Places

The practice of fansubbing takes place in several places, which in turn serve as platforms for followers to access updates and to interact with producers. The following are the most frequently used places.

  • Official TB Forum. It is a multifunctional open forum designed for: (1) the storage and immediate publication of all subtitled episodes classified in series; (2) sub-forums for films, video clips, novels, newspapers and magazines; (3) free discussion areas for questions, advice, and fans’ requests for translations; (4) "important issues" such as forum norms, ethical declarations, recruitment requirements, solutions to possible technical and downloading problems on the forum; (5) "celebrity hall" (名人堂) to give credit to "honoured members" (荣誉组员), and a special promotion section of other fansub groups of the same type (classic style).

Meanwhile, with more than ten thousand people registered, several mechanisms to motivate and retain followers stood out. For example, every time users log in, they should mark their mood and optionally add some words, so that some personal data is also recorded. Entering the forum on a daily basis adds value to the members’ profiles, which helps to increase the quality of their membership so that they can enjoy advanced functions in the forum.

  • Sina Weibo (新浪微博), Baidu Tieba (百度贴吧), Douban (豆瓣小组), and the official WeChat account (微信公众号). TB is active on these platforms, accessible through redirections in the forum. They are widely-used social media platforms and forums, in China, where TB also publishes news and updates, although less frequently; and TB interacts with fans, who have different preferences in the selection of these platforms.

  • Private Group Chat in QQ and Wechat. By using the Chinese instant messaging QQ, the group establishes different private discussion groups in line with the organizational structure (e.g., chats for directors, for each subgroup and for particular series). Here they manage translation tasks, clarify linguistic, technical and sociocultural doubts, share digital resources, and introduce new members or announce expulsions. QQ is also equipped with an e-mail function and automatic distribution lists created from chat contacts. This facilitates the distribution and handing over of tasks.

Some of these groups have extended to Wechat, an emerging platform, preferred among young people, who consider it more informal, fun and heterogeneous. There they share and discuss all kinds of news and social topics related to Spanish-language societies, while they also gossip, joke about each other and even have established offline relationships among friends who first met in the community.


4.3. Recruitment and Performance Management

The recruitment process remains active throughout the year so that the group can recruit as many new members as possible. For motivation, it is publicized that although there is no reward for a fansubber’s work, all members enjoy free access to abundant audiovisual resources and exclusive membership in the forum.

The recruitment protocol consists of two steps. First, all people who are interested send their request by email, and the administrator evaluates them by asking about their availability, experience, motivation, etc. Once approved, the applicant joins a group chat in QQ of all applicants, where s/he receives the community behavioural rules that s/he must read and accept to continue with the evaluation.

In the second step a test depending on the requested position is completed. A sample of normal workload is assigned (e.g., 4 minutes of source video to transcribe or 13 minutes to translate), with source-text materials that are regularly updated. A tutorial of necessary programs is also provided, with which candidates must practice writing and technical rules, besides demonstrating their own linguistic competence. Depending on the test results, the subadministrators announce the approval or denial of candidates in the group chat of TB.

Accepted candidates become part of the group; they then select a TV series that they would like to translate, and join the corresponding chat group where they are introduced to the others. For two months, they go through a probationary period in which they must actively perform the assigned work, with seriousness and punctuality; only after that period can they become official members. If for any reason a member should excuse himself temporarily, he can do so by requesting the director’s permission, following an established quite common routine; otherwise the member is expelled (e.g., for not meeting deadlines or losing contact after warnings).

Likewise, all members are controlled under Performance Management (usual term in business, which links personal performance to salary). In TB, the following aspects are considered, the number of: completed tasks, virtual meetings attended, and peer-reviewed errors, detected between subgroups or by fans (e.g., linguistic and typographical errors). This mechanism is called 捉虫 ("capture worms"), where the discoverer of errors is rewarded and the culprit is penalized. Once a month, the director calculates each group member’s points on a table (Figure 6) and presents it at the virtual meeting; at the end of the year, the person and the subgroup with the highest accrued score obtains rewards (gifts, access to more resources, higher status in the group).

Translated table of Kiwi’s points

Figure 6. Translated table of Kiwi’s points


4.4 A code of ethics

Faced with academic controversy over whether the practice is legal (Hatcher, 2005, He, 2014), Chinese fansubbers create their own code of ethics, in order to protect and legitimize the activity. While fansubbing in Spain is often considered an illegal activity (Ferrer Simó, 2005), the current law in China, according to Shin, tolerates the translation of audiovisual products for non-commercial purposes ¾although he admits that it might just be a legal loophole fansubbers are taking advantage of. Therefore, the fundamental idea that there are neither profits nor expenses linked to work is stated and reiterated in numerous occasions and group documents.

Under this premise, the group does not subtitle audiovisuals that have been commercially imported into the country along with already existing official translations or dubbed versions, nor do they select materials previously chosen by other groups. These unwritten but widely accepted rules help to prevent conflicts with business ventures and other fansub communities. TB also educates its audience to make a legitimate use of fansubs: at the beginning of each episode a "solemn declaration" is listed, that warns, among other things, of the existence of laws that protect copyright material and of the convenience to opt for the legal one. Within the group, new members are also asked to reconsider the legal commitments and related risks that come with their "autonomous and voluntary" union with the community. With this, the group tries to avoid any liability for possible lawsuits.

Finally, at the beginning of each episode all fansubbers who have collaborated are mentioned, identified with their pseudonyms in TB (Figure 5), along with the creators of the series. It is the common way to indicate its intellectual property: nobody can individually claim possession, but everyone is satisfied with giving their product to the community and to the followers. However, in Web 2.0 (with simple resources to search and download), fansubs are particularly vulnerable to dishonest behaviour. For example, another fansub community once stole TB subtitles in a very popular movie to use them on their version. More recently, a seller in Taobao4 recorded episodes subtitled by the community and sold them in DVD format, for personal profit. These incidents have made all subtitlers aware of how important it is to protect their own property rights, while attempting to survive and legitimize themselves in a social context that is still confused in the definition of practice.


5 Discussion and conclusions

The analysis of a Chinese fansub community shows a fluid, efficient and collaborative online organization. A clearly hierarchical structure is identified, which is an unusual feature in peer-based production for the common good (Benkler, 2006). In community management, evidence has been found to confirm that subtitlers are subordinated to their directors, and these to the sub-administrators, and the latter to Shin, the administrator. Some proven organizational strategies are: the access tests, a probation period for newcomers, and the Performance Management, established by directors to control members’ behaviour. Directors adopt an almost professorial attitude (Ito, 2012) in organization and revision, which reinforces their position as veteran fans and holders of subcultural capital (Thornton, 1996) that would be beyond the reach of ordinary fans, sympathizers or fansub lovers.

Regarding fansubbing activities, a highly productive process with a remarkable degree of autonomy is identified: tasks are distributed according to each member’s technical or linguistic competence (transcription, synchronization or translation), instead of their status derived from their position on the organizational chart (e.g., as administrator, Shin is a specialist in computational operations, but knows little about the Spanish-speaking countries); translators also have the right to select which series they subtitle, depending on their interests, and to change their roles within the community or to reduce accepted workload following established procedures. The coexistence of the hierarchical model and collaborative work gives rise to what Meng & Wu (2013) and Rong (2015) call a hybrid construction, in which fansubbers constantly negotiate which of the two models they should adopt.

I believe that it is in this voluntary affiliation, based on a shared intellectual initiative, that the "collective intelligence" is claimed. Everyone makes their knowledge and skills available to the rest, in an organized, flexible way (Lévy, 1997). Thus, a large group of fans can do what even the most committed amateur could not achieve: accumulate, retain and continuously recirculate unprecedented amounts of relevant information (Baym, 1999). In the fansub community, not only is that information created and exchanged, as in other loose fan groups ¾based on shared interest, popular products or social media¾, it is also reinvested in the productive activities of translation and subtitling: creation of tutorials and compilations of errors (e.g., to share and teach each other technical programs and linguistic resources), which constitutes a form of instrumental productivity (Wirman, 2013).

From a broader perspective, this study illustrates how the new digital environment revolutionizes the development of collective intelligence, since it helps overcome geographical and temporal communication restraints between fans, giving rise to what Hills (2002) conceptualizes as just in time fandom. Fansubbers in this study adhere to the definition, given the various virtual places they use to organize and promote themselves (e.g., QQ to communicate with each other, an official forum and social media to contact followers, and online encyclopedias to create self-presentations). As Jenkins (2006) points out, from the texts distributed through Internet to multimodal content, changes affect not only the format, but also the channels and the platforms, through which active audiences are more empowered than ever, to participate and collaborate in digital creation and interaction.

In addition, through analysis of the code of conduct formulated by fansubbers and their motivations for practice, a complex interaction is revealed between the top-down dynamics of institutional and corporate power over media production and distribution, and the bottom-up force of fan activity with the aim of creating and distributing content fitting their interests (Li, 2015). Although their legal situation is precarious in China, as in many other countries, fansubbers try to avoid threatening the interests of third parties; they aspire to contribute to educating their audience, and they manage to legitimize themselves in the tension that comes with media convergence (Jenkins, 2006). This also agrees with Lee (2011), who suggests that in the fan universe, the concept of copyright differs from official discourse, which is linked to the subjective understanding and interpretation of cultural consumption.

Finally, we would like to indicate some future lines of research. One issue that we have not been able to address is the fansubbers’ motivation. Based on our data, there is an initial personal interest in learning Spanish language and culture, followed by more psychological or social purposes, such as to develop a geek identity, to join a cool or admired group, or to get in touch with specialists in fansubbing. However, more data and participants are needed to complete and describe these motivations and to find out more specific issues, such as whether and how it affects fansubbing practice, whether they facilitate the construction of a collective group identity or whether they resist media regulation. Finally, the impact of this vernacular practice on improving linguistic competence and even its didactic possibilities within formal education remains to be explored.



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1 It is the most popular search engine in Chinese language.

2 It is the largest collaborative online encyclopedia in Chinese language.

3 To calculate the volume of this corpus using Western referents, note that the characters are ideograms, and that a Chinese character is usually considered as equivalent to 1.5 ~ 1.8 words in English.

4 Chinese platform for private purchase and sale, similar to ebay.


Recommended citation

Zhang, Tian Leticia; Cassany, Daniel (2017). "Fansubbing from Spanish to Chinese : organization, roles and norms in collaborative writing". BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, núm. 37 (juny) . <>. [Consulta: 25-06-2017].