There are a lot of online communities that voluntarily and collectively produce subtitles for content that they love. This could be Brazilians making Portuguese subtitles for English TV series, or English speakers providing subtitles for Japanese TV series, often collaborating using online discussion forums. These are non-professional fan communities that are motivated by their love of the content and the meaning they find from collaboration. It’s a great example of modern day communal work.
Making subtitles itself is an interesting form of work. It can be easily split into parts and delegated to many people (e.g. a 60 minute film split into 30 2 minute parts with 30 people each doing one part), and the collaboration can happen easily even if participants are scattered geographically and work in different time zones.
So this is how a platform cooperative for making subtitles could work. Let’s say I want English subtitles for a 60 minute Spanish nature documentary. I submit this project to the platform, donate 20€ to the translation project, and over time there are others who donate 180€ more. As the donations reach 200€, a group of 4 Spanish speaking nature enthusiasts want to make subtitles for the documentary. They break the documentary into four 15 minute parts, with each one translating one part and receiving 50€. Only when the subtitles have been added to the documentary, do they receive the money. The cooperative could take a small commission to pay for maintenance and compensating editors.
It’s typical in subtitles submitted on YouTube to mention who did the subtitles at the end of the video. This would provide the cooperative with outreach, as the subtitles in the end would mention the cooperative, perhaps with a message encouraging viewers to join.
Of course these don’t have to be films. For example, Ted have a Ted Translators program that allows volunteers to submit and be credited for providing subtitles for Ted Talks. This could be extended to translating texts as well.
I am proposing this coop to Platform6, a platform cooperative that seeks to connect people who want to support cooperatives with cooperatives that seek support. The cooperative membership only costs £1 a week, is open to everyone across the world and makes its decision online using Loomio, an online tool developed by a worker owned cooperative to enable digital democratic decision making. Perhaps if this coop proves to be successful, it might be eventually be listed in the Coop Exchange. If you are interested in the subtitle making cooperative, please join the conversation in Platform6 or comment below!