Emoji are going to be some of the most recognizable icons of the 21st century, says architect Changiz Tehrani, which is why he decided to cast 22 of them in concrete and use them as decoration for a building in the Dutch city of Amersfoort.
“In classical architecture they used heads of the king or whatever, and they put that on the façade,” Tehrani told The Verge. “So we were thinking, what can we use as an ornament so when you look at this building in 10 or 20 years you can say ‘hey this is from that year!’” The answer was obvious: emoji.
So a while ago I got into a discussion with someone on Twitter about whether emojis have syntax. Their original question was this:
do emoji have grammar/direction? if english is 👩📸👨 (girl photographs boy), is arabic 👨📸👩 or 👨👩📸 ? and is japanese 👩👨📸 ?
— r12a (@r12a) November 14, 2016
As someone who’s studied sign language, my immediate thought was “Of course there’s a directionality to emoji: they encode the spatial relationships of the scene.” This is just fancy linguist talk for: “if there’s a dog eating a hot-dog, and the dog is on the right, you’re going to use , not .” But the more I thought about it, the more I began to think that maybe it would be better not to rely on my intuitions in this case. First, because I know American Sign Language and that might be influencing me and, second, because I am pretty gosh-darn dyslexic and I can’t promise that my really excellent ability to flip adjacent characters doesn’t extend to emoji.
So, like any good behavioral scientist, I ran a little experiment. I wanted to know two things.
- Does an emoji description of a scene show the way that things are positioned in that scene?
- Does the order of emojis tend to be the same as the ordering of those same concepts in an equivalent sentence?
From John Herrman’s excellent Awl series, The Content Wars:
What’s unusual about text, and which helps explain why journalists’ reactions to this change are so confident and visceral—as opposed to the resigned and uncertain responses they have to changes in Facebook, which, to them, is much more powerful in ways they can control much less—is that, unlike, say, native Twitter images, which marginalized a small number of Twitter-specific companies, longer posts change a professional calculus for anyone who uses Twitter to promote writing online. An old boss used to say, half-joking and then eventually not joking at all, “maybe that story would be better as a tweet.” What was initially almost pejorative—said to mean “short” or “slight” or “unworthy of a longer post”—became a complex judgement. Could this piece of news be conveyed well in a sentence or two with an image or video? Could we just screenshot that statement, or release, rather than asking people to follow a link to a post where it’s quoted? If the answer is yes, then the corresponding reader question—would I rather see this on Twitter, or click on some site—is answered as well.
The ability to post 10,000 characters will make the answer to that question “yes” in a majority of situations. Possibly a large majority! This post, for example, would fit in a 10,000 word text card. I doubt anyone reading it expanded in their Twitter feed would think, “damn, I wish I was reading this on a website instead of right here! I wish I had clicked a link, for some reason!” This is somewhat worrying if you’re in the business of making posts against which ads are sold.
You may well have seen this doing the rounds—just as interesting is Meyer’s follow-up note.
This is an isochronic map – isochrones being lines joining points accessible in the same amount of time – and it tells a story about how travel was changing. You can get anywhere in the dark-pink section in the middle [London] within five days – to the Azores in the west and the Russian city of Perm in the east. No surprises there: you’re just not going very far. Beyond that, things get a little more interesting. Within five to ten days, you can get as far as Winnipeg or the Blue Pearl of Siberia, Lake Baikal. It takes as much as 20 days to get to Tashkent, which is closer than either, or Honolulu, which is much farther away. In some places, a colour sweeps across a landmass, as pink sweeps across the eastern United States or orange across India. In others, you reach a barrier of blue not far inland, as in Africa and South America. What explains the difference? Railways.
It’s a choice that belies Jay’s relative lack of acting experience. He and Mark began making movies in New Orleans when they were very young, and because of their age difference — Jay is four years older than Mark — it worked out that Jay would operate the camera while Mark stayed in front of it. As they grew up, they lived what Jay calls an “uncultivated, un-curated” childhood, filled with street football and DIY art projects and a general improvisational spirit, including a deep involvement in music.
“When you grow up in New Orleans, like, the only way to be an artist is to be a 55-year-old black musician. That’s basically what we wanted to be,” he said. “If you had asked me very truthfully what I wanted to be when I was 16, the answer would’ve been, ‘I want to be a 55-year-old black musician.’”
Martin Carr (The Boo Radleys) listens to Ram for the first time. Spoiler: he loves it. As he should. (See also Dave Depper’s The Ram Project, where he re-recorded everything you can hear on the album over the course of a single month.)
Where is ‘Shady Lane’?
In a suburban industrial park south of Los Angeles, researchers have taken a significant step toward mastering nuclear fusion—a process that could provide abundant, cheap, and clean energy. A privately funded company called Tri Alpha Energy has built a machine that forms a ball of superheated gas—at about 10 million degrees Celsius—and holds it steady for 5 milliseconds without decaying away. That may seem a mere blink of an eye, but it is far longer than other efforts with the technique and shows for the first time that it is possible to hold the gas in a steady state—the researchers stopped only when their machine ran out of juice.
Nathan Friend’s digital replica of the classic Spirograph toy. Written in TypeScript, using D3.js.
I like this weekly challenge to readers to rewrite a sentence as concisely as possible. It’s likely that by the time you read this, the answers to this week’s challenge will be posted. The sentence to shorten is ‘This tool helps companies identify which of the 60 the most likely cyberattack scenarios are relevant to their situation’.
I forgot to post this last week. MailChimp have released their internal style guide under a Creative Commons licence. See also Voice and tone their guide to, well, those two things.
5: Emoji mosaic
THIS IS CRAZY MAGIC. Upload an image to turn into a mosaic made out of emoji. (Emojis?)
In the present tense, you aren’t stuck to the moment—you can go forward and backward in time. In fiction, the demands of the present tense are in some ways the opposite of that exploration of uncertainty—the tense places a demand for the elimination of all other possibilities in the writer’s imagination—this is what happened and is what is still happening whenever this memory returns to this character or whenever this moment matters. Granted, it requires a belief that memory is like a text that cannot change, in the way writing can, once printed, be permanent and collectible. But the best writers play with this, say, as in Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, where she moves from the past tense recollections of an adult painter returned to her hometown to the present tense narrative of the child that painter was—and the subject is soon what she has chosen to remember and what to forget—and this is given to the reader, not to the narrator, to discover.
I loathe those bastard Minions. Readers may remember them as the archetypal hashgag.
Minions have been engineered to be everything and nothing at once. They are not sexual, but they can develop romantic interest. They are androgynous but have distinctly male names. Their language is a hodge-podge of others. Their bodies have both a slender skinniness and the curves of fatness. They all need corrective eyewear […] They are paper-thin archetypes that we cast our own ideas, aspirations, and worries onto. […] Minions are “SCREAMING CORNPOPS WHO ARE TEARING APART SOCIETY THROUGH MIDDLE AGED MOM MEMES.”
(via Today in Tabs.)
Last November, 22-year-old Khiry Johnson took the stand on the syndicated daytime television show Divorce Court and accused his significant other, Erin Rodgers, of being sextually untrue. “We both have iPhones, and we both have emojis,” Johnson testified. “Now, I feel like certain emojis shouldn’t just get sent to anybody. I’m referring to emojis with the heart eyes. Blowing a heart kiss. … Even the eggplant that some people refer to as male genitalia.” […] Soon, the #EggplantFridays hashtag became such a popular dong repository that Instagram administrators were compelled to shut it down in an attempt to enforce the network’s strict nudity ban.
Why do some books, as simple as they may be, succeed in becoming worldwide sensations? Do their authors treat the language differently? How do printed symbols lure us into epic worlds? I had to dig in. I picked the most successful book series of the last 20 years and applied text mining techniques, seeking for patterns and, well, a way to reverse engineer an author’s mind while writing.
Can metaphors be designed? I’m here to tell you that they can, and are. For five years I worked full-time as a metaphor designer at the FrameWorks Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC, whose clients are typically large US foundations (never political campaigns or governments). I continue to shape and test metaphors for private-sector clients and others. In both cases, these metaphors are meant to help people to understand the unfamiliar. They aren’t supposed to make someone remark: ‘That’s beautiful.’ They’re meant to make someone realise that they’ve only been looking at one side of a thing.
One of the song’s striking characteristics is the way in which it dispenses with pleasantries. There is no attempt to break you in gently. No easy introduction. No burying of the lede. It’s more a case of a lyrical fist buried in your solar plexus.
Let’s talk about icons now. They’re an essential part of many user interfaces. The thing is: more often than not, they break clarity.
A dive into icons as a UI element and how they are usually pretty shit.
In California, farmers pay dearly for water — or, more precisely, they pay for the delivery of water — and water is getting very, very expensive. “The avocado’s native environment is tropical,” Wolk says to me in his office, which overlooks his own modest avocado grove, “and we’re growing them in a desert.” It takes 72 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados, compared to, for instance, nine gallons to grow a pound of tomatoes.
While these nuances are groundbreaking in an esperanto sense—an eggplant is an eggplant is an eggplant, after all—they also create a huge margin for error and a demand for a larger emoji vocabulary for a quickly evolving future. To help us navigate the smiley-laced times ahead, we consulted the cutting edge in type technology to see what’s in store for a future of keyboard-as-canvas.
… keep us together, and tear us apart.
At work, Glover manufactured CDs for mass consumption. At home, he had spent more than two thousand dollars on burners and other hardware to produce them individually. His livelihood depended on continued demand for the product. But Glover had to wonder: if the MP3 could reproduce Tupac at one-eleventh the bandwidth, and if Tupac could then be distributed, free, on the Internet, what the hell was the point of a compact disk?
Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless. “But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. Even Jung warned that his personality “types” were just rough tendencies he’d observed, rather than strict classifications. Several analyses have shown the test is totally ineffective at predicting people’s success in various jobs, and that about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.” I did one of these recently and came out as ENTJ which doesn’t feel quite right.
The Straight Dope: 2, 4, 8, 16 … how can you always have MORE ancestors as you go back in time? . On pedigree collapse, which explains why generations of ancestors don’t usually follow an exact 2n pattern. “Consider an extreme case. Mr. and Mrs. Nosepicker have two children, a girl and a boy. These two develop an unnatural yen for one another and marry. Six months later the girl gives birth to an eight-pound horseradish with a lisp. In theory, the horseradish has four grandparents. In reality, its maternal and paternal grandparents are identical. Two of the four grandparent slots are thus filled by duplicates — pedigree collapse with a vengeance. Only slightly less extreme is the case of Alfonso XIII of Spain (1886-1941). Because of inbreeding in the royal family, he had only ten great-great-grandparents instead of the expected 16.”
Secret Lives: Katherine Heiny’s ‘Single, Carefree, Mellow’. “When you tell a friend that no one wants your story, she asks you what The New Yorker said about it. You admit you have not sent it to that magazine, and your friend laughs. She says you were supposed to start with The New Yorker. So, on a Thursday, you send the story there, and the next day Roger Angell, the fiction editor, calls you — early enough that he wakes you up — and says he wants to publish it […] That story helps you get an agent, but you and she later part ways and it takes more than 20 years before you finally publish, at age 47, a book under your own name, a collection of stories called Single, Carefree, Mellow.”
The reluctant king of the hidden internet. “The Hidden Wiki holds the keys to a secret internet. To reach it, you need a special browser that can access ‘Tor Hidden Services’ – websites that have chosen to obscure their physical location. But even this browser isn’t enough. Like the Isla de Muerta in the film Pirates of the Caribbean, the landmarks of this hidden internet can be discovered only by those who already know where they are.” Silk Road: libertarianism, crime and the Internet.
Introducing introji – emoji for introverts. “Designer Rebecca Lynch found she couldn’t express herself through standard emoji when she was feeling unsociable. So she created her own.”
How public transit agencies deal with all your angry, mean, and terrible tweets. “Some cities ignore the abuse, but others have found success engaging it head on.” Somewhat related: yesterday, due to a 2-minute delay, 30-odd train passengers and I were delayed by a little over an hour at Grantham, a small station in the East Midlands. The abuse the platform worker got was unsurprisingly horrendous—but what struck me was the age of the abusers. I doubt any of them were under 60.