Re: Emoji: emoticons vs. literacy

From: Jukka K. Korpela (
Date: Sun Dec 28 2008 - 03:36:33 CST

David Starner wrote:

> On Sat, Dec 27, 2008 at 5:59 AM, Jukka K. Korpela
> <> wrote:
>> What tangible benefits would there be to anyone?
> Our local forum software persists in turning 8) (as in Math and
> Science (7 of 8)) into a emoticon. This behavior could be fixed easier
> if there were an alternative character for that emoticon. Furthermore,
> said character would be more likely to survive cutting and pasting as
> an emoticon.

Sorry, I cannot follow the logic. If some software turns 8) into a small
image, then this is either an error or intentional behavior. In this case,
it is probably intentional, and the question arises whether and how the
feature can be switched off by users; but this a practical software issue
(which would equally exist if the characters were turned into an emoticon

If it is regarded as an error or a flaw, as you seem to think, then the fix
must be trivial as soon as a programmer gets in touch with the source code.
This does not depend on whether it is turned to an image or to a character.

If you mean that the change (i.e. removing the feature) would be more
acceptable to users if they could use emoticon characters, then how do you
expect them to enter those characters? If they are accustomed to having 8)
turned to an emoticon image, would they really want to stop doing so and
learn a new input method to produce emoticons in a different manifestation?

The character pair 8) surely survives in any cutting and pasting I’ve seen.
You must mean that the interpretation that they constitute an emoticon does
not get transferred, and that’s correct of course, and an emoticon character
would thus carry more semantics. This seems to bethe first sensible argument
in favor of encoding emoticons as characters. Is it the real reason, and
does it really matter—especially considering the fact that for years to
come, those characters would not be understood at all by most software?

More realistically, emoticon characters would let people store transcripts
of chat discussions and like as plain text. Of course you can do that now,
too, though in principle you would not be able to distinguish between ”:8”
as an emoticon and ”:8” as just colon and digit eight. Such distinctions, if
necessary, could be made at a different protocol level. There are already
e.g. e-mail programs that interpret some Ascii sequences as emoticons and
display them as images. This is fairly harmless and most probably would not
change if emoticon characters were introduced. Those characters would just
add a third possibility of using emoticons, probably causing confusion and


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