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Author Archives: Jason Scaglione

lingua universal

 

google-noto

Google is explicit: “Make all the world’s information universally accessible and useful.”

If your device does not recognize a font, it renders little boxes in the character space—unofficially called “tofu.” Google and design company Monotype have been working for over 5 years towards creating a linguistically universal font, one that will render any language on any device : it’s called Noto (no tofu, GET IT!?).

Is there in “digital” the potential for universal language? What does it mean when “universalism” is designed and asserted by commercial actors? Is the effort necessarily more about power, more a move like “commercial imperialism?” Monotype, for its part, tried to be sensitive to this:

Describing the company’s approach to Tibetan, for example, Monotype did “deep research into a vast library of writings and source material, and then enlisted the help of a Buddhist monastery to critique the font and make adjustments. The monks’ constant study of Tibetan manuscripts made them the ideal experts to evaluate Noto Tibetan, and were instrumental in the final design of the font.”

Can a non-imperial universalism be mediated by a multi-lingual digital platform? Readings this week suggest directing this question to the inbuilt protocologic forms brokering digital exchange, where “control” describes our User Interface. Perhaps the question is rather: can a non-imperial universalism be operationalized via any structured interface?

 

Automata

power

Today it broke that AT&T is buying Time Warner for over $80 billion. The merger is part of an ongoing trend toward verticalization of assets thru subsumption, so there will in all likelihood be more to come:

“When a big deal like this happens, more deals tend to happen,” analysts with New Street Research told investors Friday. “It is a good time to be an asset ‘in play.’”

A good time to be an asset in play. There are human agencies involved in these negotiations, to be sure—but there is also the automation of something like a capital platform:

The generic universality of platforms makes them formally open to all Users, human and nonhuman alike. If the User’s actions are interoperable with the protocols of the platform, then in principle, it can communicate with the systems and its economies. For this, platforms generate User identities whether they are desired or not. [Bratton 2015/p49]

Considering this, we could say capital consolidates according to its own protocols, according to which Users act alongside (and as) assets in a field of exchange (in play). This field is structured by the platform, which “acts,” in effect, with some autonomy viz. its Users (human and nonhuman assets alike). The unique diminishment of human virtue as an operable force within its platform is a special feature of capital’s logic.

Yet, who, of all people, tries talking explicitly about the power manifest thereby?

“As an example of the power structure I am fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN — a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” Trump said at a speech in Gettysburg, Pa.

Whaaaat is even happening…