ViKi: The Triumph of Korea…and multilingual anglophones?

6 Nov

ViKi is a portmanteau of the words “video” and “wiki.” Unlike other fan-subbing sites, ViKi uses an advanced web-translation system along any website user to provide subs, even if only a few lines. Not only that: it also allows access to a great number of potential translations. The site currently “supports subtitles in more than 100 languages,” according to viki.com. A program’s subbing can be completed within only a couple of hours of its broadcast (although this can be in violation of copyright law in many countries). The show Boys over Flowers for example was,

“within only 20 hours of its actual broadcast [in Korea]…translated into 25 different languages. It seems that the entire episode was translated into English in one hour. Then from English into all different languages, it took about 20 hours” (Sun Jung “K-Pop beyond Asia:  Performing Trans-Nationality, Trans-Sexuality, and Trans-Textuality,” in Asian Popular Culture in Transition, ed. Lorna Fitzsimmons and John A. Lent Routledge: 2013; 119, 108-130 ).

Being a wiki, ViKi does not have a leader delegating roles to subbers like most subbing sites. Anyone can contribute and evaluate translations and their quality. Users can seek clarification of unfamiliar idioms and receive various replies, which others may in turn correct or supplement.

A visit to the site’s Facebook page contains over five million “likes” and comments in multitudes of different languages like a giant electronic tower of Babel.

So who’s watching?

“In 2011, the most popular content on ViKi are Korean television dramas and Mandarin-speaking (including Taiwanese and Chinese) television dramas. The largest user group are English speakers, followed by Mandarin-, Spanish-, Vietnamese-, Filipino- (Tagalog), and Korean-speaking users. According to Ho [one of the site’s co-founders], many of the Vietnamese users are based in the USA, and they are one of the most actively participating user groups. Also significant is the fact that 25 percent of ViKi users are Caucasian North Americans. Ho explains: ‘85% of ViKi’s traffic comes from English-speaking countries such as the US, Canada, Singapore, UK, Australia, and the Philippines. Among them, the US traffic takes the biggest share (50%). According to Quantcast, a third party traffic anlytics provider, 43% of ViKi’s US users are ethnically Caucasian while only 38% are Asian Americans” (ibid.).

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