Inexplicably, my favorite Skype emoji is the ninja. It waves its sword around and then disappears in a cloud of smoke. What exactly I’m supposed to convey when I use it, I don’t know, but I have been known to use it when I’m in a good mood. Otherwise, the thumbs up, conveying “Yes!” is on the more practical side of my repertoire. (Why there’s a bandit emoticon, I’ll never know, but there just is.) Of course, the emojis I use vary depending on the device or software at hand, my audience and the message I want to express at the time.
From cave paintings to logos to emoticons and emojis, it’s been a long journey, but visual communication has been a constant tool in the history of human communication.
With texting and other modern communications where space is at a premium, like Twitter, we – as a (digital) society – increasingly find ourselves content to receive the following response: “<3”. (If I was sending this to you in a Gmail chat, you would see a heart fuse together, right itself and then glow red.)
When we study, quantify and interpret so many of our words and actions in an eternal search for meaning and intentions, it’s only natural to want to track our emojis too. Emojitracker and Silicon Feelings are an early start at this, with real-time displays of the emoji that people on Twitter are using. But companies like Facebook, Yelp and Yahoo are already on the bandwagon, allowing users emoji options and advertisers another way in to consumers’ minds.
Since emoji are pictographs, they don’t require translation into different languages, like words do. However, context is arguably more important with emoji when interpreting meaning. Of course, a smiley face and a sad face seem pretty clear cut, but what about the cactus? What is that saying? Could it be, “Let’s go to the desert!” “I feel like a cactus,” “You’re acting like a cactus” or maybe even “I wish I had a cactus.”
Here, have a ninja.