Uniform multilingualism: A media genealogy of Google Translate

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This article applies a media geneaology perspective to examine the operative logic of Google Translate. Tracing machine translation from post–World War II (WWII) rule-based methods to contemporary algorithmic statistical methods, we analyze the underlying power structure of algorithmic and human collaboration that Translate encompasses. Focusing on the relationship between technology, language, and speakers, we argue that the operative logic of Translate represents a new model of translation, which we call uniform multilingualism. In this model, the manifest lingual plurality on the user side is mediated by lingual uniformity on the system side in the form of an English language algorithm, which has recently given way to an artificial neural network interlingual algorithm. We conclude by considering the significance of this recent shift in Translate’s algorithm.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2550-2565
Number of pages16
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number7
Early online date22 Aug 2017
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Actor–Network Theory
  • Google Translate
  • algorithmic culture
  • media genealogy
  • neoliberalism
  • participatory culture
  • translation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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