Unerasable Characters III / 刪不了的符號 III


See the online work here

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. The collection 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 The University of Hong Kong. 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) posts 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博士在香港大學的”微博視野”研究項目, 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記錄。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)


  • Year of Production: 2021
  • Medium: Web art , electronic literature
  • Technical Production:
    • The 3 months COVID-19 related Weibo data source, see the source
    • Python for data parsing
    • HTML + CSS for web presentation
    • The project source code here
  • Acknowledgements: Weiboscope research project, Dr. Fu King-wa, Polly Poon, as well as Joel Kwong, Florence Wai and Jason Lam from the Microwave commissioned project – Connecting the Dots

Exhibition/Publishing Record(s):

  • May, 2022, Newman Library, Virginia Tech, USA
  • 2022, Metatopia Pavilion, The Wrong Biennale
  • Feb 2022, Electronic Literature Directory by Brent Lace
  • May 2021, Connecting the dots, curated by Joel Kwong, Hong Kong
  • May 2021, The New River – A Journal of Digital Art and Literature (Spring 2021 issue) (Open Access)


“Winnie Soon’s brilliant piece positions technology as both a new and ever-changing framework for language. There’s a battle of erasure––a question of will and preservability. How does technology both disrupt the immobilizing act of silence and also perpetuate it? Here, technology instills a unique way of aging a voice through the use of emoticons and symbols. What do those symbols and emoticons mean in 2021 as opposed to 2025? Which will continue to be used and which will fade away to make room for new symbols? How do their uses vary among different users and how do those varied interpretations push and pull against one another? Protection and loss are intertwined through the use of the black backdrop. The darkness allows the remaining symbols to be easily read but it also serves as a reminder of what’s been erased and what could potentially be erased. This piece both freezes time and begs readers to question what will inevitably change or be lost.” – Editors Amanda Hodes and Sonya Lara from The New River, A journal of digital art and literature (2021)

The beauty of silent digital artwork is that it allows the viewer to form an opinion on censorship and erasure. Whether you stand for or against censorship and digital authoritarianism, both opinions matter and should not be silenced. [...] Reflecting on the silenced voices on the Weibo social media platform we must always ask ourselves; is what we are seeing the absolute truth? Or are there voices being silenced by digital authoritarianism? - Brent Lace (2022)

Cite this work:

Soon, W, 2021. “Unerasable Characters III.” The New River – A Journal of Digital Art and Literature (Spring 2021). (Open Access)