• Finland

  • PL 24

    00014 University of Helsinki


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Personal profile

Description of research and teaching

I'm currently conducting two research projects:

  • MUTABLE: Multimodal Translation with the Blind (2017-2019, Academy of Finland), blogs.helsinki.fi/audiodescription
  • MeMAD: Methods for Managing Audiovisual Data: Combining human accuracy with computational efficiency (2018-2020, EU Horizon2020), memad.eu

In MUTABLE, I study the translation process from the perspective of multimodal interaction and collaboration between translators and users. As a case in point is the audio description process in which a team of sighted and blind describers creates an audio description of a film. Audio description means verbally translating visual elements of an audiovisual narrative for the benefit of visually impaired persons, enhancing their access to visual and audiovisual culture. My project combines Translation Studies, Linguistics and Film Studies with interactional, multimodal, and cognitive scientific perspectives. Drawing on socio-cognitive analysis of translation processes and multimodal analysis of interaction, the project collects and investigates data from authentic audio description processes in Finland, Germany and Austria. The primary data consist of video recordings of face-to-face encounters between audio describers.

In MeMAD, an international consortium of research and business partners develop methods of accessing audiovisual content through language (audio and content descriptions, and subtitling). The idea is to combine human and machine translation to create an improved model of information extraction, retrieval and search. The method will benefit in particular the Creative Industries in dealing with the ever-growing amount of audiovisual big data, such as videos and films, but it can also be adapted to improve the access services as semi-automatic audio description and subtitling.

In general, my research interests are:

  • intermodal translation (audio description, subtitling, multisensory interpreting, environmental description)
  • accessibility
  • multimodality in translation and interpreting
  • multimodal interaction, asymmetrical interaction
  • human-machine interaction
  • multimodal machine translation
  • media culture, film studies
  • cognitive linguistics
  • shared cognition, cultural cognition

I teach BA and MA level courses in translation studies and supervise MA and doctoral theses. Here's an example of my teaching, featuring a video lecture about accessibility services in multimodal translation (hosted by UniTube).

Outside the university, I am elected member of Young Academy of Finland (2017-2021; information in Finnish) and member of its board. I am audio describer and member of the audio description board of the organisation "Cultural Service for the Visually Impaired" (Näkövammaisten kulttuuripalvelu ry) in Finland.


Fields of Science

  • 6160 Other humanities
  • Translation Studies
  • 6121 Languages
  • Interaction
  • Conversation analysis
  • 613 Arts
  • Film studies
  • 518 Media and communications
  • Multimodality

International and National Collaboration Publications and projects within past five years.

Publications 2004 2019

Open Access

Blindheit als Ressource: Zur professionellen Kompetenz eines blinden Teammitglieds bei der gemeinsamen Anfertigung einer Audiodeskription

Translated title of the contribution: Blindness as resource: On the professional competence of a blind team member in a cooperative audio description processHirvonen, M. I. & Schmitt, R., 2018, In : Gesprächsforschung. 19, p. 449-477 29 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Open Access

Miten elokuvan kuvailutulkkaus syntyy?

Translated title of the contribution: How is a film audio description created?Hirvonen, M. I., 2018

Research output: Non-textual formWeb publication/siteProfessional

Open Access

Imaginary places – Verbalization of setting in the English, German and Spanish audio descriptions of Slumdog Millionaire

Hirvonen, M. I. & Igareda, P., 2017, In : mtm - A translation journal. 9, p. 341-364 24 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Audiodeskription und Sichtdolmetschen: Translation über Sinnesgrenzen: Eine Begriffsanalyse

Translated title of the contribution: Audio description and visual interpreting: Translation across sensory barriers: A conceptual analysisHirvonen, M. I., 2018, Spielräume der Translation: Dolmetschen und Übersetzen in Theorie und Praxis. Kvam, S., Meloni, I., Parianou, A., Schopp, J. & Solfjeld, K. (eds.). Münster: Waxmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

Projects 2013 2020


Multimodal translation in audio description

Hirvonen, M. (Creator), Maija Hirvonen, 2016


Activities 2009 2019

Translation as interactive meaning constitution and negotiation

Maija Hirvonen (Speaker)
13 Mar 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk



Mari Wiklund (Speaker: Presenter), Maija Inkeri Hirvonen (Speaker: Presenter)
7 Jun 2018

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesOrganisation and participation in conferences, workshops, courses, seminars

Teamwork between blind and sighted persons: Effects of visual asymmetry on intersubjectivity

Maija Inkeri Hirvonen (Speaker), Liisa Tiittula (Speaker)
11 May 2017

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

Nuorten tiedeakatemian klubi - Young Academy Club

Maija Hirvonen (Speaker)
14 May 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

Press / Media

News and articles on my research in audio description

Maija Inkeri Hirvonen


4 items of Media coverage

Press/Media: Press / Media

News, articles and interviews on the MeMAD project

Maija Hirvonen


1 item of Media coverage

Press/Media: Press / Media

Training of students in accessibility services (subtitling, audio description) at University of Helsinki

Maija Inkeri Hirvonen


2 items of Media coverage, 1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Press / Media

Hack for Society -hankkeen tiimit

Tuija Kinnunen & Maija Inkeri Hirvonen


1 item of Media coverage

Press/Media: Press / Media

Kuva muuttuu sanoiksi

Maija Hirvonen


1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Press / Media