Modifying The Universal

Cover of Data Browser 6

During Transmediale 2017 Data Browser 6: Executing Practices was launched. This publication, edited by Helen Pritchard, Eric Snodgrass & Magda Tyźlik-Carver brings together artists, curators, programmers, theorists and heavy internet browsers whose practices make critical intervention into the broad concept of execution.

It draws attention to their political strategies, asking: who and what is involved with those practices, and for whom or what are these practices performed, and how? From the contestable politics of emoji modifier mechanisms and micro-temporalities of computational processes to genomic exploitation and the curating of digital content, the chapters account for gendered, racialised, spatial, violent, erotic, artistic and other embedded forms of execution. Together they highlight a range of ways in which execution emerges and how it participates within networked forms of liveliness.

Together with Peggy Pierrot and Femke Snelting I contributed the text Modifying The Universal which is a close reading of the process of implementing emoji modifiers in 2015. After a public outcry against the perceived lack of diversity in emoji characters available on smartphones, the Unicode Consortium added five “Skin tone modifiers” to the set and considered the issue resolved.

Modifying the Universal asks how and why mainstream communication infrastructures promote universalist values and at the same time provide means for separating users along fault lines of race, gender and age. While the “modifiers” function within the universalist belief-system of Unicode, they start to function as encoded means for segregation instead of a response to the increasing complexity of cross-device and cross-cultural computing. This situation demands a re-imagination of compatibility in terms of difference.

Data Browser 6: Executing Practices is published via Autonomedia and can be downloaded here.

With contributions by Geoff Cox, Olle Essvik, Jennifer Gabrys, Francisco Gallardo, David Gauthier, Linda Hilfling Ritasdatter, Brian House, Yuk Hui, Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard, Andy Prior, Helen Pritchard, Audrey Samson, Kasper Hedegård Shiølin, Susan Schuppli, Eric Snodgrass, Winnie Soon and Magda Tyżlik-Carver