Modifying the universal

In 2014, 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.

As a contribution to the event Executions: conversations on code, politics & practice, Femke Snelting, Peggy Pierrot and Roel Roscam Abbing will discuss 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. In considering what kind of interventions might be carried out in relation to this, the talk will be followed with a hands-on workshop in which participants will be able to experiment with the customization mechanisms that are already implemented in Unicode, seeing how one can subvert the universal from the inside and at the level of the code itself. As a possible outcome of the workshop participants could formulate a comment to the current proposal for new emoji mechanisms.


@ Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden