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Spectacular Grammar: Infrastructure as a Universal Language

Creative Commons 'BY-ND' version 4.0 license

This paper proposes information technology (IT) infrastructure is formulating a universal language. It dips into historic efforts to create a universal language via avant garde filmmaking and Gottfried Leibniz’s characteristica universalis. It then explains how international standardization organizations are developing the globally unified infrastructural language through their regulations. The paper weighs the benefits and consequences of a universal language by looking into who IT infrastructure serves and who is excluded. Finally, it explains the curatorial process and implementations of the exhibition Spectacular Grammar: Infrastructure as a Universal Language, a program featuring five artists, designers, and activists envisioning a world where everyone speaks internet.

Part one begins with how information technology has become the primary mediator for communication, and how that influences the way people express themselves. As Marshall McLuhan inferred in his 1964 essay, “The Medium is the Message,” technology becomes inseparable from the messages it transmits, adding another layer of meaning to what is communicated; language, in turn, starts to be shaped around the tools that facilitate it. Thus, IT infrastructure is not just a tool to communicate, but is part of language itself.

Part two covers the curatorial process for Spectacular Grammar, a program that featured Mindy Seu, paige watkins, Feminist.AI, and Color Coded. Using different research methods, including a retreat, a series of workshops, a publication with commissioned essays, a gallery exhibition, and a public lecture, Spectacular Grammar helped explain the concepts of IT infrastructure’s role in formulating universal language to the general public.

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