Encoding/Decoding as Translation
This article asks what would happen if media scholars developed a theory of translation that responded to the specific concerns of their field. It responds by revisiting a foundational text—Stuart Hall’s “Encoding/Decoding”—to see what insights it provides into translation. It proposes three axioms: (1) To use a sign is to transform it; (2) to transform a sign is to translate it; and (3) communication is translation. These axioms cast translation in a new light: It is a transformative substitution, where translators are not necessarily people who seek to reexpress something in a new language, but everyone who speaks. This article concludes by identifying an ethics incipient in “Encoding/Decoding,” a politics of invention articulated against a utopian horizon, but grounded in everyday interactions.