Annotated allusions:
We need new forms of translation service. Why? The proliferation of cultural forms, the increasing avalanche of cultural artifacts of the past, and the balkanisation of media delivery methods. I’m not talking about translating national languages – or about sleeve notes on albums, ‘critical prefaces’ to books, or even scholarly annotated editions of classics – but about embedding access to transparent “cultural annotation” within the product itself. Would it simply pander to a lazy audience? Perhaps; maybe the audience should just scribble a word or phrase down (“hey; sleeve notes, what were they?”) and then look it up on Google/Wikipedia later. Would it be fan-geek cultural trainspotting? Perhaps; maybe part of the fun of discovering the references is in seeking out kindred spirits online who’ll explain those mysterious references. But few media products have fan-bases large enough to do that. Even fewer fan-bases have any cross-over with the erudite fan-geekery of the scholarly world. For instance, how many viewers identified the use of the famous John Masefield poem (“All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by…”) in Sky Captain, or got the several references to The Once and Future King in X-Men 2? Maybe we need some sort of universal ‘cultural reference tag’ which can be embedded in digitised texts and media and then seamlessly linked to a ‘Wikipedia Look-Up Plugin’. Or a mobile phone that acts as a cultural encyclopedia (ClickCult® ?); when someone makes an allusion (‘trainspotting‘ and ‘balkanisation‘, for instance, may be mysteries to my non-British readers) or refers to some old TV series you haven’t heard of, then you can get your bearings instantly.