Complexity Explorer Santa Few Institute

Taking Complexity Science Global with our Subtitle Team

10 May 2017

You have to transcribe material on an evolving, highly technical, and unfamiliar subject taught in a foreign language. There are thousands of people relying on the accuracy of your work. Some of the material isn’t even taught in your country of origin, let alone your language, anywhere. Is this a nightmare about college finals or a fun intellectual challenge? 

For our students who make up our subtitling team, the above circumstance skews towards the latter. Through the subtitle platform, more than 116 hours of subtitles have been created for Complexity Explorer’s videos in over 40 languages. Students watch videos and transcribe their content, opening the material up to an ever-growing audience. 

As the largest online platform for complex systems learning in the world, we feel both obligated and honored to make our content accessible to as many people in the world as possible. Oftentimes those who live in places where English isn’t spoken have limited access to certain fields of contemporary science education. Complex systems science is a newer, growing field within science, and students may not have access to subject matter expertise at their local university.  With our growing and intensely dedicated Amara team, complex systems science can be studied more broadly and by a wider audience, creating a network of complex systems scientists around the globe. 

What motivates a student to subtitle Complexity Explorer Videos?

For Cigdem Yalcin, one of our top volunteers and an assistant professor of Physics at Istanbul University, subtitling is both personally beneficial and a way to give back to and extend the complexity studies network. “Subtitles reinforced my learning and contributed to improving my English”, Cigdem explains. ”I felt grateful to those who made subtitles for the course, and hope to be beneficial for others”. Her work on Complexity Explorer, she says, has made a direct impact on her life. Despite the small presence held by complexity science in Turkey, she has successfully incorporated complexity into her academic work. This fall she’ll begin teaching “Introduction to Chaotic Systems” at Istanbul University, a course she proposed after learning about complex systems. “The Courses I’ve completed from Complexity Explorer will be so useful in building a background for my course”. After maintaining a strong presence on the Complexity Explorer site, she’ll be joining us in Santa Fe in real life - Cigdem has accepted a position at the Santa Fe Institute’s Complex Systems Summer School this year.

Marina Muscan of Romania feels similarly. With a whopping 281 minutes of subtitles generated, she holds the number one spot on our subtitle team ranking. “I want to help as many people as possible to take part in these courses”, states Marina. Her work with complexity science began by analyzing communication methods of terrorists groups (“I was sure there was a strategy behind it beyond marketing tactics… I tried to see if chaos theory could provide some answers”), but her current area focuses on disability theory in social networks. By subtitling videos she is simultaneously finding new ways to look at disability in society and mitigating some of the struggles of those who are hard of hearing. Marina views the occupational health (and healthcare systems in general) as inherently complex, but saw no theory applications in the field. “I’m looking to find a unified view  of disability, and currently I am looking at various models… used today to try and find a common denominator”. In addition to her research efforts in complexity, we recently learned that Marina is a wonderful painter - check out the painting she gave us in thanks for producing our online content, now proudly displayed in the CE office! 

Both Cigdem and Marina are truly exceptional in the volume of videos they’ve worked on, but a majority of our active subtitling team contributes less than a half hour. For those of us who love statistics, it’s interesting to point out that about 55% of our subtitles are contributed by the bottom 67%, making for a fairly even productive distribution. No matter how much or how little you subtitle videos, your work will be incredibly valuable in helping us achieve our goal of universal accessibility to complexity science. Consider the massive impact that translating the upcoming Agent-Based Modeling course for your native language could have! 

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