At NorSC we have weekly meetings, and early on in my PhD we were chatting a lot about emoji for various reasons. Through these chats I learnt how an emoji came to be included in the official Unicode collection and, to be honest, was a bit annoyed. Considering this was a communication resource being used more and more regularly by millions of people across the world, I assumed there would be some engagement with potential users. Unfortunately not.
This got me thinking about the political and social context of emoji and other kinds of communication resources that are designed, made, approved of, released, or somehow controlled by one group of people for them to be used by another.
I wrote down these thoughts in a little piece for Designing Interactive Systems 2017 in Edinburgh (you can find it on Research Gate) and made a website: www.emojidesignonline.com . The idea was to democratise emoji design, the website providing a venue for anyone to propose an emoji and others to comment and vote on those that they think are needed. The idea was that one year after it’s creation I would send the results to Unicode as an emoji proposal. To promote the site, I wrote a Conversation article that was published around the same time as World Emoji day 2017. As you can see, it didn’t really take off, and I am not sure of its worth as a piece of research without considerably greater engagement. However, I learnt a lot about emoji, a lot about web design, and had a lot of fun doing it.
Another piece of work I would like to do around emoji is looking at their change in use and meaning over time. In May 2017 a set of 50 or so emoji were added to Unicode’s official collection. I selected 4 (i. woman with headscarf, ii. fortune cookie, iii. exploding head, iv. t-rex) and ran a script that collected every incident of each of them being used (and some additional metadata) on Twitter – I am indebted to my amazing colleague Jamie Mahoney for writing the code to do this! I’ll update this post when I have some results!