Re: Emoji: emoticons vs. literacy

From: Leo Broukhis (
Date: Tue Jan 06 2009 - 13:44:40 CST

  • Next message: Asmus Freytag: "Re: Emoji-- all or nothing?"

    On Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 10:23 AM, Asmus Freytag <> wrote:
    > Emoticons (Western usage) started out as orthographic convention, what I
    > called "punny use of punctuation". As long as users typed them in as
    > punctuations and/or could visualize the punctuation sequence behind a
    > symbol, the sequences still represent orthography. If users predominantly
    > select them from pick lists and cannot visualize the sequence when they see
    > a symbol, then functionally, this convention has become markup.

    On the other hand, if users keep in mind the words they would have
    used if emoticons/emoji were not available, then functionally, this
    convention is a kind of syntactic highlighting. There is no semantic
    difference between "I love NY", "I <3 NY", and "I [image of a heart,
    possibly animated] NY".
    If a user, for cuteness purposes, configures her MUA to replace all
    occurrences of "love(s)" in incoming messages with a picture of a
    heart, of emotion words - with the corresponding smileys, all
    occurrences of references to weather ("sunny", "overcast", "clear
    sky", "raining", etc.) - with the appropriate weather symbols, and all
    mentions of Zodiac signs - with the Zodiac symbols, it is clearly
    syntactic highlighting.
    When the same is done in the outgoing messages, it is still syntactic
    highlighting that is forced on the recipient.
    When the replacement is done more flexibly, allowing the user to
    decide which word or phrase to replace by allowing her to pick a
    replacement manually *instead of typing it and indicating that it
    should be replaced*, it's still syntactic highlighting.
    And when a user thinks "oh, there is a collection of cute thingies in
    my phone, let's see what I can add to my message that corresponds to
    my mood" - she is creating a rich text message (these thingies could
    have been JPGs or even short movie clips). There is no middle ground
    in my opinion.

    Therefore the question is, if Unicode is going to accommodate the
    phenomenon of emoji at all, would it rather do it by introducing
    "syntactic highlighting indicators" - note that there is no need for a
    mode switch it the set of highlightable phrases forms a prefix code, -
    or by allowing rich text, encoding the set of pictures du jour?


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