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Are Emoticons the Future of Language? | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

[MUSIC PLAYING] Humans have always been
interested in exploring emotion through some new
kind of typography. With emoticons,
you’re transferring a bit of your creative self
and emotional self into a icon. I think that adds so
much to the conversation or the relationship. The combination of
images and words, I think, is extremely powerful. And that’s where the potential
to say new things comes. [MUSIC PLAYING] Traditionally,
writing wasn’t really supposed to reflect
our usual give and take that we have in a conversation. If you think about
punctuation, the main ways to do that in the
English system is either an exclamation point for
expression of joy or wonder or anger. But then the question
mark, of course. And that relates specifically
to a interrogative form of the language. And that’s about
it, traditionally. [TYPING] But humans have always been
interested in exploring emotion through some new
kind of typography. One interesting example was
an American humor magazine called “Puck,” which
way back in 1881, presented a series of different
dashes and parentheses and so forth to
create little faces. Also, in the 1880s,
Ambrose Bierce, who was writing for the
“San Francisco Examiner” at the time, he
gave a suggestion of what he called
a snigger point. And that was just basically a
right parenthesis on its side that would look like a smile
to indicate a bit of levity. Then into the 20th
century, Vladimir Nabokov was quoted in “The
New York Times” about wouldn’t it be nice,
again, to have what he called this supine round bracket. Again, a kind of a
smiley to indicate that one was not completely
seriously in one’s writing. And so these varied suggestions
were milling around, but none of them were
really taken up seriously. But that changed with the
advent of networked computing. In 1982, Scott
Fahlman recognized that on early internet
forums, there was often this kind of miscommunication. And came up with the colon,
the dash, right parenthesis to indicate a smiley face. Now people are being creative. They’re finding
new possibilities. In Japan, for instance, they
took the idea of emoticons and developed more
complex symbols for expressing different
types of emotion. And so, you know, these things
can develop very quickly, of course, where people
who previously had not used emoticons very much
suddenly find themselves using it quite often. I think new tools create
new thoughts and new thoughts demand new tools. So in some ways, I think we’ve
reached the limits of print as a way of
expressing ourselves. Those rigid lines on
white pages aren’t very good at expressing
more fluid thoughts. Part of what’s going on
here is an increased use of the power of irony. We’re in an age when beliefs
are held more loosely, when we don’t believe in the
same gods, the same morals, that we used to. So I think we have to modulate. We have to control the degree of
seriousness we apply to things. And that’s where I think the
potential to say new things comes. But people always put down
a new form of communication as soon as it arrives. When Plato talks about
writing, he talks about it as a supplement to speech. And I think the
way some people now talk about emoticons is
they’re just a supplement, they’re just an add on
to the more important way of communicating. But these new forms
of communication are much more than
mere supplements. They’re going to give
us new ways of thinking, and that through a combination
of words and images, it might be possible
to say more. FRED BENENSON: “Emoji
Dick” is “Moby Dick” translated into Japanese emoji. It’s this 800-page
volume of emoji next to the original
sentence that Melville wrote. I didn’t do the translation. I hired people on Amazon’s
Mechanical Turk service to do the translation. I was interested in seeing
what the human mind could do to try to boil
some of these very complex and floral sentences
down into these simple emoticons. And I think it’s
successful in that. I don’t know if it’s wholly
successful, that 10% to 20% of it has this brilliant nuance
and humor and creativity. In terms of literature and
the future of language, does it portend
good or bad things? I’m not going to go there. I think this is
just the beginning. I think we’ll continue to see
emoji represented in culture. There are now music
videos that are just like comprised of emoji. Katy Perry has one. This year in February
the Library of Congress asked to acquire a copy. They were like, we want us to
be the first full complete book of emoji. You know, in 100 years
will people be like, in the early 2000s, when
people started using emoticons, that’s what we
saw the beginnings of this new thing that
totally changed communication. We’ll see. I mean, that’s where it’s
like really exciting. Currently it’s hard to see a
time when emoticons might serve a more formal purpose,
but the conventions have not been standardized. And so even in
formal writing, there are possibilities for change. Emoticons have been part of
web culture since it started. They go even farther
back than that. They’re not going anywhere. MITCH STEPHENS:
There’s something lost and something gained
with all technology. And I would never
underestimate words. But I think emoticons
have the potential to make words more significant. [MUSIC PLAYING]

85 Replies to “Are Emoticons the Future of Language? | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios”

  • Just figured to say cause I couldn't finish the video- and others might find difficulties too.
    Warning for watchers-
    Rapid flashing lights warning. 

  • wasn't a fan of the flashing background colors, definitely could've triggered epilepsy for someone since there was no video warning….great content though!

  • that just makes me more amazed at the power of the internet. While in the real world there will always be someone trying to stop any form of change the internet is much less able to be influenced by negativity. So if someone tries to bash on something like Emoticons nothing will change on the internet.

  • I don't think emojis will completely replace written text, but i definitely think they're an important part of textual communication; they really set the mood of a conversation and prevent miscommunication of emotive quality uwu

  • This reminds me of the book the Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson. While the book deals mostly about nano-technology and its impact in the future, it does mentions a new form of language based in animated pictograms which are essentially complex emoticon GIF's which can be displayed in any surface.
    Given the movement and liberty of these images, they work as a way to communicate any message to people, turning some into functional illiterates who never need to learn how to read the "old" and "stiff" letters.
    It's a fascinating idea what will happen when emoticons gain movement with the increasing ubiquity of screens around us.

  • Emoticons have to be short and accessible to be practical…

    In Asia, they don't use it as we do in America. We use emoticons as a "shortcut" to express our state of mind… In Asia, they use them as pictographs and ideographs, which is, in a way, only an extension to their "common writing".

    I don't think they are using emoticons in an efficient way compared to us since their emoticons can comprise A LOT of glyphs…

  • Yes They are. You can't tell how people feel through your moble divices, so you have to develope a way to know right? Well I still don't know v^ewe^v .

  • It's funny we think of a book of emoji as groundbreaking. Many cultures have created pictogram languages to break language barriers, the most prominent being Chinese.

  • great now we are going to revert back to pictographic writing , the human race is reverse evolving faster than I thought

  • "Are Emoticons the Future of Language?" What a stupid fucking question.

    Of course they're not, we're evolving not DEvolving. We're not turning back into cavemen drawing pictures on the walls to communicate. Baffles me to think that some people have such ridiculous ideas of the future, like this.

  • Were all those flashing colors really necessary? I think you should warn people about that at the beginning of the video. Made it really hard to enjoy the content of the video. 

  • 1. You really should put a epilepsy seizure trigger warning in the beginning of the video.

    2. That's not Charlie Chaplin @03:16 but Robert Downey Jr. as Chaplin from the movie Chaplin from 1992

  • In Homestuck, there is no on-page dialog. Instead, it's presented as a chat log. WIth only the use of punctuation and the character's writing style and diction, the author has given us the tone of their speech with no description. Emoticons are a part of telling us how a character is speaking, or what faces they are making that are not in the accompanying panel. :3 Emoticons are already changing literature and I think it's cool. 

  • That would be fun, if the specifications I get at work to code programs are completely done in emojis. Should be the emoji for "WTF" all over the place.

  • This was wonderful, I absolutely love this channel. Well made, thought provoking, enjoyable to view. Seriously, thank you PBS for making the internet just a little cooler. 

  • 11111111¶111111111111111111111111111111111111 

  • I've just commented "<3" in a TED talk of a speaker I admire and they responded me in an email that they "need comments to remain on-topic to the ideas presented in the Talk"

  • _____
    (• – • )
    | |
    * *
    i am
    (^ • ^)/
    / )
    Humaner love dance!
    (•; ~ ;•)
    |_ _ Humaner hungre after dance!
    (• • • • • • •)
    (• • • • • •. )
    Humaner like buger!
    Humaner happi
    (^ • ^)/
    ( )
    Humaner need lose weight now!

  • right because communicating with pictures is a new thing… hello the Egyptians and Mayans are way ahead of this… these people are sheltered.

  • How is this different from Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics? Looks like language is making a full circle here….. Fascinating!
    :-{)> ( that's me with a goaty beard)

  • Oh c'mon. This dumbshit isn't connected to Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Hieroglyphics was a an ancient language consisted of pictures or symbols carved on walls by the Egyptians. Emoticons are just faces posted by people who stay at home all day. Do me a favor PBS and stop comparing a internet fad to actual history. Dumbasses.

  • Wait, have I been using T_T wrong all this time?! I thought it was like NOT AMUSED than crying. Hmph.

  • Not to hate on emoticons or anything, but isn't this just another variation of heiroglyphic writing like what the ancient Egyptians, and countless other cultures, used: stylized images of objects used to represent & express ideas, objects, feelings & such? The form taken might be new & the symbols being mostly understood by people from all languages through use on the internet is a definite convenience, but is this really all that earth-shattering?

  • This just reminds me of the mayan's language, they used small 'icons' with words to tell a story, so this is not the future of language, but actually the past! amazing isn't it!? 🙂

  • TOTES U GUYZ, let's go all the way back to hieroglyphics! We're in an age… that didn't take history lessons and thinks everything is "new".

  • People use them ever day.  I love facebook cuz it changes my 🙂 into a graphic.  I love  for sending animated graphics in my emails.

    Hey!  I am watching your video on my TV!
    I am loving it!  
    I will never pay a monthly cable or satellite bill again!  You can too!
    Streaming TV.  Is the way to go!
    I hope you appreciate the tip!

  • Well condensed video, it covers the different emoticon eras: from 80s Lite Speak to emoji´s phenomenon. Interessting

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