CfP | Participatory Subtitling in the Danmu Comment Culture

Participatory Subtitling in the Danmu Comment Culture

Subverting the Hierarchy of Consumable Content in China’s Social Media

Special Issue of Communication and the Public
(Volume 8, Issue 4, December 2023)
Guest Editor Luis Pérez-González (University of Agder, Norway)

In the media ecology that has emerged and settled in digital culture, participatory subtitling on social media platforms is fostering the formation of online communities where subtitlers and their audiences negotiate new forms of networked sociality (Pérez-González 2019, Lee 2021). As the technological affordances of social media platforms have continued to evolve, the comments posted by viewers have come to encapsulate these sociality negotiation processes and “are [now] increasingly supplanting content as the main form of consumable media” (Xu 2016:436). Although the semiotic, technological and selected sociological aspects of participatory subtitling have attracted significant attention from translation scholars over the last two decades, the community-building potential of participatory subtitling and the impact that evolving commenting practices have on the consumption of subtitled content remain largely under-explored.

Described as a “hypertextual audiencing tool” (Chen 2020:321) that co-exists and interacts with traditional subtitles, traditional off-screen viewer comments and other non-verbal semiotic resources, danmu or ‘bullet comments’ have been shown to enable the formation of virtual communities of interest and to foster new practices of online sociality and deliberation. Previous research on this Asian comment culture (Wu et al. 2018) has confirmed that danmu may serve the same function as traditional subtitles, delivering target language versions of the source diegetic speech produced by a single subtitler or composed by self-selected parts of the audience —often working asynchronously. In addition to their translational dimension, danmu facilitate viewers’ participation in discussions about foreign language comprehension and translation quality; engagement in parasocial interaction with diegetic characters or imaginary interlocutors; involvement in community regulation enforcement; and negotiation of intersubjectivity around shared interests —whether in the form of mundane affectivity or engaged causes (Pérez-González 2022).

This special issue aims to open up new perspectives on the interplay between diegetic (translational) subtitles and extra-diegetic posts elicited by the consumption of said subtitled content, as a means to gain a better understanding of the community-building potential of participatory translation. It focuses on the danmu comment culture, a unique environment where multiple layers of interaction are undertaken and inscribed in the diegetic space through processes of ‘textual intensification’ (Dwyer 2017). Abstracts are invited from scholars in translation studies, media studies and digital culture with an interest in exploring the topic of this special issue from various theoretical and methodological perspectives. The range of potential themes includes, but is not limited to, the impact of danmu on:

  • the traditional relationship between subtitled media content and comments, as well as between authorship, translatorship and viewership;
  • the established textual hierarchies that have traditionally given primacy to the diegetic narrative content over the paratextual content generated by viewers;
  • viewer’s engagement with and enjoyment of media content, while participating in the negotiation of intersubjective affinity with fellow viewers;
  • the role/function of diegetic translational subtitles and their relationship with the audiovisual narrative;
  • users’ processing of the of calligraphic overflow and cognitive saturation;
  • the deployment of surveillance and censorship measures within China’s social media;
  • viewer experiences and comment cultures outside of China;
  • the development of new research methods within translation studies;
  • the theorization of subtitling practices such as ‘impact captioning’ (Sasamoto 2014), ‘authorial titling’ (Pérez-González 2012) as well as those associated with ‘accessible filmmaking’ (Romero Fresco 2019), among other examples.
  • the monetization of subtitling media content in the economy of attention.


Chen, Z.T. (2020) ‘Slice of Life in a Live and Wired Masquerade: Playful Prosumption as Identity Work and Performance in an Identity College Bilibili’, Global Media and China 5(3): 319–337.

Dwyer, T. (2017) ‘Hecklevision, Barrage Cinema and Bullet Screens: An Intercultural Analysis’, Participations. A Journal of Audience and Reception Studies 14(2): 571–589.

Lee, S. (2021) ‘Translating YouTube Vlogs for a Global Audience: Innovative Subtitling and Community-building”, International Journal of Cultural Studies 1–24. DOI: 10.1177/1367877920979717

Pérez-González, L. (2012) ‘Co-Creational Subtitling in the Digital Media: Transformative and Authorial Practices’, International Journal of Cultural Studies 16(1): 3-21.

Pérez-González, L. (2019) ‘From the ‘Cinema of Attractions’ to Danmu. A Multimodal-Theory Analysis of Changing Subtitling Aesthetics across Media Cultures’, in M. Boria, Á. Carreres, M. Noriega-Sánchez and M. Tomalin (eds) Beyond Words: Multimodal Encounters in Translation, London & New York: Routledge, 94-116.

Pérez-González, L. (forthcoming 2022) ‘Fighting the COVID-19 ‘Info War’: Subtitling and the Construction of Digital Nationalism in Chinese Social Media’, in M. Baker (ed.) Unsettling Translation, London & New York: Routledge.

Romero Fresco, P. (2019) Accessible Filmmaking. Integrating Translation and Accessibility into the Filmmaking Process, London & New York: Routledge.

Sasamoto, R. (2014) ‘Impact Caption as a Highlighting Device: Attempts at Viewer Manipulation on TV’, in Discourse, Context and Media 6: 1-10.

Wu, Q., Y. Sang, S. Zhang, and Y. Huang (2018) ‘Danmaku vs. Forum Comments: Understanding User Participation and Knowledge Sharing in Online Videos’. Proceedings of the 2018 ACM Conference on Supporting Groupwork, 209–18. Available online:

Xu, Y. (2016) ‘The Postmodern Aesthetic of Chinese Online Comment Cultures’, Communication and the Public 1(4): 436–51.

Submission Instructions

Contributions should be around 9,000 words (inclusive of references, tables, figures, appendices, and endnotes). Examples from languages other than English should be glossed where required. Copyright permission must be obtained by the contributor where necessary prior to publication.

Abstracts of 400 words (plus bibliography) should be submitted to the guest editor at by 1 March 2022.

Production Timeline

  • 1 March 2022              Submission of abstracts (400 words)
  • 30 April 2022               Notification of acceptance of abstracts
  • 31 December 2022     Submission of manuscripts for peer review
  • 30 June 2023               Submission of revised manuscripts
  • December 2023          Publication date

Guest Editor

Luis Pérez-González is Professor of Translation Studies at the University of Agder (Norway) and currently serves as Associate Editor of Target. He has published widely on various areas of media translation. He is author of Audiovisual Translation: Theories, Methods and Issues (Routledge 2014); editor of the Routledge Handbook of Audiovisual Translation (2019) and co-editor of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media (2021). Since 2019, he has been the Academic Director of the International Research School for Media Translation and Digital Culture organized by the Baker Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies at Shanghai International Studies University.