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October 24, 2014
Monday, March 31, 2014

The campaign for more diverse emojis

By Pablo Toledo
For the Herald

Across mobile, and especially in iOS, people use emojis (1) to express deep and complicated emotions. But the lack of diversity in the human-related emojis makes it hard to accurately (2) represent life through these pictograms (3).

For the most part, they either depict white people/disembodied (4) white hands, or the traditional Simpsons-yellow, which is meant to be more neutral. The abstract colours are all right, but don't really cut it (5) when there's such a critical mass of emojis depicting white people.

In a statement to MTV Act, an Apple spokesperson admitted that the company agrees and wants to change things: “Tim [Cook, Apple CEO] forwarded your email to me. We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”

Without a hard timeframe (6), it's hard to tell how serious Apple is, or how much power the company can wield over the Unicode consortium (which develops international software standards). An FAQ about emoji on the consortium website explains, "The Unicode Consortium does not design emoji … We do not make or sell fonts, images, or icons … Adding characters to an encoding standard involves a long, formal process." The site includes detailed instructions for submitting "character encoding proposals."

But the campaign for more diverse emojis has been raging (7) for almost two years now, and includes proponents like Miley Cyrus. It's time to push one of these proposals through and give the people what they want! And if you don't care about emojis, you can just support the issue on principle.

By Lily Hay Newman, Slate

Emojis
There's a good reason “emoji” doesn't sound like an English word – it is actually Japanese! The word emoji literally means "picture" + "letter". A related word would be “emoticon”, a generic word for the icons that express smileys and other expressions in emails, chatting and text messaging.

Accurately
Something accurate is precise, correct and true in every detail.

Pictogram
A pictogram or pictograph is a picture, diagram or symbol that represents a word or a whole phrase. Hieroglyphs, Chinese writing, street signs and icons in computers or home appliances are all examples of pictograms.

Disembodied
Literally, separated from the body. Here it describes hands not attached to a whole person, but usually refers to sounds or voices without a known origin, and sometimes to ghosts or spirits.

Doesn't cut it
When something or someone “don't cut it”, that thing or person is not good enough or appropriate for a specific purpose. This is an informal expression, found more in speaking than writing.

Timeframe
A timeframe or time frame is the period of time that has been assigned or planned for a specific action.

To rage
The Oscar-winnign song ends with Idina Menzel belting out an epic “let the storm rage on”, but what is rage? As a noun it means a feeling of violent anger or fury, and as an action it usually describes things like storms, battles or arguments that continue over time in a violent way.

One small letter, one big difference

When the writer says “Across mobile, and especially in iOS, people use emojis” she means that people use emojis in all mobile platforms, but that people with iOS (Apple's operating system, which keeps iPads and iPhones running) devices use it more than the others. Especially means, therefore, something like “particularly” - we would say “I like all fruits, especially oranges.”

And how is this word different from “specially”? Specially means “in a special manner” or “for a particular purpose,” so we would say that “Charlize Theron's dress was designed specially for the Oscars red carpet.”

In contrast, we could say “This game was specially designed for children, so it is especially popular with them.” Not specially tricky, once you think about it... or should I say “especially”?

@destierrado

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