Public Release: 

Video and film portals that incorporate real-time comments from their audiences

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Barcelona

This technology allows watching videos of various kinds and posting comments that are superimposed on the video, collaboratively. It's called "danmaku" in Japanese and "danmu" in Mandarin Chinese and was launched in 2007 and 2008, respectively. It immediately became very popular among otakus (fans of anime and manga). Currently almost all video portals in China have incorporated this application, and some cinemas even screen comments sent by those watching from their mobile sitting in the stalls via Wi-Fi. The comments are published in a text bar that crosses the screen from right to left like a contextualized chat on the frame itself. In this way, audiences can watch their favourite videos while reading, writing and exchanging their views on the one screen, in an instant, contextualized and dynamic chat.

"While in the West multimedia platforms like YouTube have been widely studied, Asian portals remain unknown. So we analysed the "danmaku" or "danmu" phenomenon from the point of view of uses by the youth and intercultural uses of these platforms that are so popular in China", state Leticia-Tian Zhang, a researcher sponsored with a scholarship from the Chinese Government, and Daniel Cassany, coordinator of the study and professor and researcher, both with the Department of Translation and Language Sciences at UPF, and authors of an article showing the first results on this topic which they have published in the journal Comunicar.

The article addresses two main issues: first, the training opportunities of "danmu"/"danmaku" technology (unknown in Europe) that allows commenting and sharing a series by writing and reading dynamically on the actual frames, and, secondly, it addresses the reception by Chinese fans of the series El Ministerio del Tiempo, on a "fandom" platform, under official censorship and in order to learn about the Spanish language and culture. "Our study explores a new, even more complex environment of bilingual subtitles, made by fans, and free, dynamic overlaid comments", add the authors.

"We based ourselves on a corpus of 1,590 comments on the Spanish series El Ministerio del Tiempo, subtitled in Chinese by "fansubbers", or amateurs, and broadcast via a Chinese "fandom" platform with millions of followers (Bilibili, 100 million active members in 2017, 75% under 25). Using this corpus we have analysed the subjects that arouse greatest interest among the fans", adds Zhang. El Ministerio del Tiempo, by Pablo and Javier Olivares (TVE, 2015-2017), is a science fiction series that tells the story of time travel by several Spanish public servants to preserve history. It has been highly acclaimed by the critics, even being considered the best Spanish series ever ("El País", 2017), and has managed to create the first Spanish "fanbase" with a similar level of development to that of other international fictional series.

To analyse "danmu", the authors combine content and discourse analysis. Content analysis enabled classifying the total corpus of "danmu" by topics and quantitatively selecting the viewers' most representative interests and reactions. Discourse analysis enabled discovering the phenomena behind the discourse, of an ideological, cultural nature etc.

There is interest in film genre, the characters and the plot, and also in intercultural and sociolinguistic differences between Spain and China (stereotypes, forms of address, greetings, speed of speech) and certain taboo content in China related to sex (erotic scenes, kissing in public, infidelity, the use of tampons, etc.)

The results show that their discussions address issues of interculturality on matters that are taboo in China, and the "fandom" culture in Asia. The viewers are most interested in film genre, the characters and the plot, intercultural and sociolinguistic differences between Spain and China (stereotypes, forms of address, greetings, speed of speech); certain taboo content in China related to sex (erotic scenes, kissing in public, infidelity, the use of tampons, etc.).

"They take advantage of the opportunities of the comment located in each frame and the shared knowledge about series and "fandom" to create ironies, views and an alternative subculture to the "mainstream", avoiding censorship", the authors of the study reveal.

This research illustrates the potential of participation, communication and learning in social networks in Asia, and is an interesting and innovative contribution to the field of digital and media literacy, with several suggestions to promote intercultural competence with the use of popular culture.

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