Unerasable Characters III

Description (in English): 

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 The University of Hong Kong, 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) 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.

[Source: The New River]

Screen shots: 
A screenshot of the work: Posts, shown linearly, are represented only by punctuation and emoji.
A screenshot of the work: Posts' timestamps are shown in blurred, white text.
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Record posted by: 
Amanda Hodes