Unerasable Characters III

Title: Unerasable Characters III / 刪不了的符號 III
Year of production: 2021
Web art , electronic literature

:: Description ::

The unerasable series explores the politics of erasure and the temporality of voices within the context of digital authoritarianism. It presents the sheer scale of unheard voices by technically examining and culturally reflecting the endlessness, and its wider consequences, of censorship that is implemented through technological platforms and infrastructure.

The series collects unheard voices in the form of censored/erased (permission denied) data, including emojis, symbols, textual characters, which is based on one of the biggest social media platforms in China – Weibo via the system called “Weiboscope“, a data collection and visualization project developed by Dr. Fu King-wa from Hong Kong University, in which the system has been regularly sampling timelines of a set of selected Chinese microbloggers who have more than 1,000 followers or whose posts are frequently censored.

Unerasable Characters III utilizes data between 1 December 2019 and 27 February 2020, the time when the COVID-19 outbreak was started in China. According to King-wa Fu & Yuner Zhu, there were 11,362,502 posts during the period, among which 1,230, 353 contain at least an outbreak-related keyword and 2,104 (1.7 per 1,000) had been censored.

The artwork displays all the erased archives in the format of a web presentation, where each tweet is unreadable. The content has either been obscured or blacked out, except the punctuation​, emojis and special characters. However, what remain are the pauses and blurry timestamps, depicting the affective and expressive, as well as temporal and spatial dimensions of unheard voices. Users can interact with the web by pointing to those pauses, contemplating the poetics of silence and erasure, and further questioning how the culture is being normalized via systematic processes and political infrastructure.

刪不了的作品系列探討刪除的政治性及在數碼威權主義下各種聲音存在的時間性。透過技術性檢驗及文化上的反思去讓觀眾思考審查制度在不同的科技平台及架構下所帶來的影響。 作品系列建基於傅景華的香港大學研究項目”微博視野”, 並收集各種在微博社交媒體上被審查 / 刪走的聲音。該系統定期追踪擁有超過1,000 追隨者或其帳戶經常受到審查的人。

“刪不了的符號 III” 收集了covid-19在中國爆發期間的推文, 即是2019年12月1日至2020年2月27日之間的數據。 根據學者傅影華和朱蕴儿的說法,在此期間共有11,362,502條推文,其中1,230,353條包含至少與爆發疫情相關的關鍵字,並且一共有2104條被刪除了(即是每1000條中有1.7條是被刪除)。

此藝術作品以網頁形式顯示所有已刪除的推文,除了標點符號,表情符號和特殊字符外,內容均已被遮蓋或塗黑所以每條推文都不可被閱讀。 然而,剩下的只有刪不了的停頓及模糊的時間。作品描繪了符號的情感表達,時間和空間維度的靜默。 用戶可以通過滑鼠指向這些停頓點,注視靜默和刪除的含意以及進一步反思透過科技規範化的審查文化。

(see the project source on Gitlab)

:: Video Documentation ::

:: Exhibition Record(s) ::

  • May, 2021 (forthcoming), Connecting the dots, curated by Joel Kwong

:: Technical Production ::

  • 3 months COVID-19’s data source, see the text
  • Python for data parsing
  • HTML + CSS for web presentation
  • (see the project source on Gitlab)

:: Acknowledgements ::

Weiboscope research project, Dr. Fu King-wa, Polly Poon, Joel Kwong, Florence Wai, Jason Lam