Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Google fast-forwards... to the past

They say that history repeats itself. That certainly seems to be the case with social media, which is all about communication. On the one hand, many posts are mostly emotional--whether it's posting selfies to get more self-love or posting a diss to burn an old flame. On the other hand, words are somehow too wordy and are being replaced by emoticons and emojis.

This is definitely a reworking of our ancestral past. Emojis were what we used before we invented words. Richard A Firmage, in his interesting book The Alphabet Abecedarium writes:

Pictographic or Iconographic writing was the first actual writing. A simple picture designated an object... the earliest known examples are Sumerian from about 4000 BC.

 This picture language was at first very simple. In fact it was rather basic. Some of this Sumerian language is shown above, with the pictures on the left and their meanings on the right. You can see that the images for man and woman are images of genitalia. Below the image for woman is the image for land. Combine woman and land and you get female slave. 

Where would we be without our whatsapp icon set? We're so used to using these images in our texting that it's hard to remember a time when we didn't have them. They seem so natural, and of course they are--pictographs and images are no doubt coded into our very cells.

Both Facebook and Google realise this and have been paying attention to the emoji side of texting.

Here are Facebook's new reaction emojis.

And below is Google's approach via a new app called Supersonic. Supersonic converts your voice text into a text-and-emoji message on the fly. What, I think, is particularly interesting is that both approaches are dynamic. We've already had entire novels written in whatsapp-speak. At present it seems unlikely that anyone could write an entire book using only emojis. But I suspect that time is not far off.

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