Re: Emoji: emoticons vs. literacy

From: Jukka K. Korpela (
Date: Thu Jan 08 2009 - 11:19:05 CST

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    Kenneth Whistler wrote:

    > The short answer is that *everyone* benefits from having
    > a standard that promotes interoperability of text interchange
    > globally without data corruption.

    Regarding the addition of characters to Unicode, which is what this is all
    about, "everyone" is actually limited to everyone who uses or intends to use
    such characters or processes data containing them.

    As such, the interoperability argument is a strong one. Yet, is this about
    _text_ interchange, and specially plain text? Emoji symbols look like
    images, even though their origin is in Ascii strings like ":-)". Do they
    constitute an emerging writing system? Maybe. But it looks more like an
    attempt to create a set of images, to be referred to by their identifiers.

    Then it's a natural (but dangerous) idea to treat those identifiers or
    indexers or whatever you call them as comparable to character names or
    numbers. Just like we encode characters in Unicode, arbitrary graphic
    symbols _could_ be encoded, as a closed set or in an open-ended manner.

    If you require no "characterhood" like systematic glyph variation by font
    design, usage as text characters in different media, and reasonably
    well-understood meaning (either as symbols of their own or as constituents
    of strings, "words"), then you are really opening a highway for all the
    world's symbols, past, present, and future, to enter the gates of Unicode
    and require admission. Well, maybe they'll need at least a small army: a
    company that claims that they have actually started using them in "text
    data" interchange.

    > I think this whole argument has been so clouded by emoji-hating
    > and by FUD about color and animation and other concerns
    > focussed on *glyphs* rather than text interchange, that
    > it is unlikely that a reasoned assessment of benefits
    > will seem convincing to those who don't want to hear it.

    Color and animation are essential issues, and I find it odd that it has not
    been commented by those that favor the introduction of emoji as characters.

    You could create a system where normal letters are displayed as multicolored
    and dancing, and nobody would object from the character code point of view.
    Such rendering features are coincidential, optional (and fairly rare) for
    any normal character. For emoji, current and future, being inherently
    graphic and iconic, it would be odd to exclude the possibility of making
    distinction between symbols solely on the basis of their colors or motion.


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