Are we to deprive ourselves of the help and guidance of that vast body of knowledge which is daily growing upon the world, because neither we nor any other one person can possibly test a hundredth part of it by immediate experiment or observation, and because it would not be completely proved if we did?
Emoji, Emoji, What for Art Thou? Lisa Lebduska By providing a history and context for emojis, this essay argues that they are more a means of creative graphic expression than a threat to alphabetic literacy, and that their study contributes to a re-materilaizing of literacy.
The essay acknowledges that in some instances emojis do help to clarify the intent or tone of alphabetic writing, but emojis, like alphabetic writing, are culturally and contextually bound. Emojis expand expression and in doing so open themselves to re-appropriation, interpretation and even misinterpretation, along with the affirming possibilities of artistic creation.
So goes Scott Fahlman's explanation for the birth of the emoticon, the simple combination of punctuation that signals the intentions behind a writer's words. Ina group of Carnegie Mellon researchers were using an online bulletin board to "trade quips" about what might happen if their building's elevator cable were cut, when they realized that an outsider to the conversation might take them seriously Garber.
They developed the iconic: And the rest, as the saying goes, was history. Or were the emoticons word-devil spawn? Did they constitute an attack on language, yet another instance of the "erasure of language" MacDonald what James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, described as "the slow destruction of the basic unit of human thought — the sentence" qtd.
While emoticons and emoji, their "more elaborate cousins" Worthammight be evidence of an "apparent [generational] decline" in young people's vocabulary Wilson and GoveI'd like to demonstrate that they share more with traditional writing than an alphabet-phile might assume, including origins rooted in the visual and the mercantile, as well as an ancient struggle with communicative unctuousness.
Emojis are not so much destroying linguistic traditions as they are stretching them, opening a gateway to a non-discursive language of new possibility and even responding to John Trimbur's call for a rematerializing of literacyby reminding us that writing always had and always will have a visual component mediated by a material world.
The narratives of emojis, then, are the narratives of writing itself. Scholars have called out the myth of alphabetic literacy's transparency as a denial of writing's materiality and the role played by larger systems of production Trimburas well as an assertion of Western superiority Miller and Lupton.
In response to this need to materialize writing, I wish to provide context for emojis, complicating these tiny stamps of humanity and unpacking some of the alphabetic resistances to them so as to position them as an emerging visual language of play, whose study will help us to think more visually and materially about writing and encourage us to experiment with the ludic potentiality of a non-discursive form.
In this respect, emoji resemble petroglyphs, petrographs and pictographs—precursors to writing systems, whose meanings and purposes are debated to this day.
Emoji origins in teen and commercial culture are indisputable. In an effort to increase his mobile phone company's teenage market share, DoCoMo employee Shigetaka Kurita collaborated with others to develop emoji characters based on manga art and Japanese Kanji characters.
But senders and recipients had to use the same network in order for the characters to display properly Marsden. Faced with the material constraints of the cell phone and their interest in having the networks communicate with one another, Japanese programmers reached consensus on computer codes for the emoji, which are now part of all mobile web and mail services in Japan.
In the mid's, as Google and Apple realized the broad appeal of the playful icons, they brought them to their Unicode Consortium Hitchhikers Guide fans!
This move to standardize resembled the efforts of Louis the XIV to standardize typographic forms through the commissioning of the "roman du roi" typeface, which relied on an Academy of Sciences committee to map the typeface onto a grid, as opposed to previous typefaces which had evolved over time and which were hand cut.
Trimbur sees the Sun King's commissioning of the committee as an attempt "to embody the authority of the scientific method and bureaucratic power" Individual engravers would no longer have an influence on the emerging shapes and the sameness of every printed letter would be guaranteed through its adherence to a mathematically reproducible template.
Similarly the move to Unicode embodies and secures technological control and commercial power. On the one hand the use of a uniform code ensures that what senders send is what recipients see, but senders and users must both have the hardware usually a smartphone, though emojis can be displayed on email as well as access to an emoji keyboard if they wish to send.
Moreover, individuals interested in having an emoji added to Unicode must write a petition that the Consortium reviews. Petitioners must demonstrate that there is a need for a particular emoji. According to Mark Davis, president of the Unicode Consortium, the emoji "must be in the wild already" qtd.
King Louis's project was doomed to fail, as anyone who has ever sat toying with dozens of typeface choices can attest, and in a somewhat simlar way, the Consortium's standardizing capacity has its limits: Moreover, emojis continue to thrive in the wild, with users sending a variety of images that are not necessarily Unicode-approved.
Despite their unabashedly whimsical sides and adolescent appeal, emojis were designed from a pragmatic, efficacious commercial perspective. Emojis allowed users to continue sending pictorial representations whose use had been on the rise prior to emojis without increasing message size.
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By providing a history and context for emojis, this essay argues that they are more a means of creative graphic expression than a threat to alphabetic literacy, and that their study contributes to a re-materilaizing of literacy.
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