FIRE-TI Conference Report


From 17 to 19 February 2022, the International Conference on Field Research on Translation and Interpreting: Practices, Processes, Networks (FIRE-TI), took place online. It was organised by the Socotrans (Sociocognitive Translation Studies) research group at the Centre for Translation Studies, University of Vienna.

Due to the Covid crisis, the conference turned out quite different than originally planned: After it had already been postponed from 2021 to 2022, the format had to be changed from an on-site conference to the online mode. This is not without a certain irony, considering that the conference theme has a lot to do with going in situ – but Covid did not leave us much choice, and in a way, the conference format reflected some of the challenges that field researchers are currently facing. At the same time, going online had the benefit of reaching a bigger audience: We were glad to welcome more than 150 attendants in total.

Other things, however, did go as we planned and wished for: The three conference days were full of enriching exchange, inspiring presentations, and lively discussions. The two keynotes by Kaisa Koskinen and Jemina Napier, the 49 talks that were given by 58 speakers, and all the questions and comments by the participants offered plenty of food for thought. We were particularly pleased to see a wide variety of perspectives – something that we had hoped for when preparing the initial Call for Papers. In our own research group, we have so far mostly focused on workplace and network research and sociocognitive aspects of translation, but we decidedly wanted to extend the focus of the conference to include field research that has been done in other areas of Translation and Interpreting Studies. This diversity found its way into the conference programme. Contributions covered both translation and interpreting and investigated different settings, from workplaces via semi-professional to non-professional contexts, both on-site and remote. Theoretical approaches were inspired by different (inter-)disciplinary backgrounds, from cognitive via sociological to anthropological or ergonomic perspectives. Moreover, we opted to apply a broad understanding of 'field research'. Methods were not limited to traditional ethnographic instruments such as direct observation in the field, but also included survey and interview research or mixed method approaches. Research interests ranged from the description of detailed aspects of T&I activities via rich case studies of specific settings up to large-scale studies tracing long-term developments in a certain sector. Some aimed to depict the empirical status quo, some proposed innovative theoretical or methodical avenues, others developed models for practical or didactical purposes, and many posed self-reflexive questions regarding methodology.

Despite this variety, there was much common ground. Indeed, self-reflexivity was an important glue that held the contributions together. Similar questions kept coming up throughout the conference, involving fundamental matters of field research as well as more practical concerns regarding methods, theories, and ethics. What is (not) a field? What is (not) field research? What are the possibilities and limitations of our approaches? How do we deal with data, with study participants and with our own position? Independent of their specific backgrounds, many scholars showed interest in issues like these and discussed them with great openness and honesty.

Without a doubt, there are many questions that remained open or that only just emerged, and we are confident that they will fuel further research. As became very clear at the conference, field research in Translation and Interpreting Studies has promising prospects and much potential is yet to be explored. We hope that the FIRE-TI conference contributed to strengthening this emerging research community by creating a room for exchange that seemed overdue. Some were even surprised that FIRE-TI was the first of its kind and many concluded that it should not be the last. We were most certainly happy to host this conference. We would like to thank everyone who attended and made it so much worthwhile and enjoyable.

Daniela Schlager


Link to the pictures: