I have written about emojis (or emoticons) before, and the implications they have for linguistics. Needless to say, as a language convention I find them quite fascinating.
So what’s new in the world of the emoji? There’s been a lot happening recently around the creation of new, more representative and inclusive emojis.
By Sk5893 (Screenshot of phone) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
According to Recode, the new emojis include:
11 new characters that portray professional women in every skin tone. Furthermore, 33 existing emojis now have both a female and male version.
The author goes on to state that “If emojis are a form of communication, they should be as comprehensive as possible.” And I couldn’t agree more. There is no reason to limit these fun and expressive symbols, and it seems only fair and logical that we should have multiple skin tones and genders represented.
Another article in CNet explains that there are 100 new/redesigned emojis created for iOS 10, which are Apple’s attempt to “make emoji characters reflect real life.” This list also includes a rainbow flag emoji and more diverse family emojis. In addition, a teenager from Germany has just suggested a headscarf emoji to represent Muslim women, though this is still in development.
Interestingly, one change has been from a real gun to a water gun emoji. What is interesting about this is not so much the change in itself, but the fact that this change has led to growing fragmentation between different mobile operating systems. As this article by ArsTechnica demonstrates, while the gun on Apple devices has changed, it still remains a gun on Android, Windows, Samsung, Facebook, Twitter and so on. The article argues that these type of differences could lead to “serious misunderstandings”.
It’s not just the gun emoji that does not look the same across platforms. This fragmentation is somewhat concerning when you see the differences across images. You may think you are sending one type of message to someone, however the image they view on a different platform sends an entirely difference meaning. Motherboard has provided a pretty good comparison to demonstrate this point. As they put it:
[E]moji are standardized by Unicode to prevent such cross-platform miscommunication. But the Unicode standard leaves room for interpretation, enough room that the variations in emoji across different brands can totally warp the meaning of what you’re trying to convey.
So an embarrassed looking face may actually show up to your friend as a really angry looking face without you realising – queue confused/upset friend.
And ever wondered what that weird alien emoji is that keeps showing up everywhere? If you’re using Apple devices, and someone uses an emoji that you don’t have (due to an older operating system for example) iOS simply puts in an alien face. Bit creepy.
Finally, the Museum of Modern Art has acquired the original set of 176 emojis to display as part of their collection. Emoji’s are really everywhere these days!
So there you have it, now you are up to date with all things emoji! Until even more are made 😉