Slate recently posted an article discussing how the discrepancies of emojis amongst mobile devices might “turn disastrous.” The article, entitled Lost in Translation, is presented in a neat video-style format that you can watch here.
Although there isn’t much reporting done on the actual disasters these emojis have caused, there is quite a discussion surrounding unicode—the technology that allows an Apple user (like myself) to send out one emoji, only to have a friend on an Android device receive a completely different emoji.
While several of the instances are relatively similar, such as the relative form of these squares, others don’t necessarily come close.
For example, these ghosts are meant to be silly across Apple and Android devices, while on Samsung and Google, they’re a bit less funny.
The dancing bunny-eared girls, an Apple favorite, seems less about “twinning” and more about, well, something, across the other devices.
One of the worst examples might be the simple look of surprise, another frequently-used Apple emoji. Across the other devices, there is a variety of translations. The Android emoji is giving an angry-eyed kissy-face, the Google emoji looks like an ogre that might cry, and Samsung’s emoji, while the closest translation, looks like a small child facing embarrassment.
Last semester, writing center consultant Nathan wrote an article about how Oxford Dictionaries named the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji as the word of the year for 2015. He writes: “Part of why this Emoji was chosen is because is transcends languages. That ability makes emojis closer to art than words.”
But what happens when the transcendence of language results in a babble of emojis tossed between the various mobile devices?
While emojis do represent a part of our language that exists without words, that doesn’t mean we can rely on a single representation with the intention of understanding the various translations.
So what does this mean for our writing?
When focusing on a single idea and its incorporation into an argument, we have to remember that the entirety of the argument is made up of many different perspectives, or translations, and it is our job as good writers to make sure readers understand the bigger picture.
For example, suppose you are a guy writing an essay about gender discrimination in the workplace. Is it enough for you to write the essay entirely from your own perspective? Will your reader be able to understand the numerous translations of experience from a sole interpretation of what you think the issue might be?
So what can you do?
- Be aware of the numerous translations that exist.
- Do your research and figure out how each perspective fits into the bigger argument.
- If your intention is to send out information that looks similar to a “goofy ghost,” make sure your reader isn’t receiving something spooky.
An audience should be able to understand a writer's intentions and perspectives clearly. Don’t be the person who sends out a look-of-surprise, only to have your reader receive a crying ogre.
Intention matters. Perspective matters. Write on.