Posts Tagged ‘Unicode Consortium’

Emoji, the 21st century’s cousin to emoticons (remember those? The digital typographical ASCII characters created in the 1970s which looked like needlepoint and were meticulously created by combining standard alphabet characters from a keyboard) have created a whole language that now can be accessed directly from a keyboard like any character set. Ever wonder who creates them or how they are created? Does anyone control this “language” or can just anybody give birth to an emoji and put it out there in cyberspace?

An article in the July 2018 issue of Wired magazine revealed all of these mysteries along with presenting some fascinating facts about emoji evolution. Emoji are not emoticons. Though used in the same fashion and are similar in that they pictographic like Japanese or Chinese characters, they are really a Unicode based “typeface”. However, they were invented by Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese, in 1999 in response to Japan’s 250 character limit on e-mails. His emoji concept was a way to conserve space within those confines.

There are now more than 2,700 emoji and more get created every year. So who creates them and makes them accessible to you and me? There are two parts to this. Anyone can create an emoji if they know how. But for it to become public it must be submitted to “…the whims of the Sanhedrin of emoji – the Unicode Consortium.” Virginia Heffernan, Atomic Unit- the Delicate Art of Emoji, Wired July 2018

The Unicode Consortium’s chief task is to set the Unicode Standard, thus controlling the way text (typefaces) is encoded and represented in the world’s writing systems. There are twelve dues paying members, one each from: Oracle, IBM, Adobe, Apple, Google, Facebook, Shopify, Netflix, SAP, Huawei, the government of Oman, and UC Berkeley, as well as the governments of India and Bangladesh who have lower-level memberships. (She did not mention in her article how these entities were chosen to become its members.)

After an emoji idea (fully mocked up as to how it will look graphically) is submitted, it gets considered by the Consortium’s subcommittee. Then after lengthy debates within that committee it is rejected or added to the master list. Each year this gets submitted to the Unicode Technical Committee who will debate and vote on which ones will be approved.

There are a few constraints. Your emoji submission can’t represent a deity, a logo, or a specific person (living, dead, or fictional – sorry no Mr. Spock or Pres. Trump allowed!) Nor can it represent something illegal or “gross” or offensive. The submitter must also write a full proposal that includes speculative data as to frequency of use. As Virginia Heffernan writes in her article, “To regulate the development of a language is not, strictly speaking, the American way.” However she goes on to state, “…the regulation of emoji…serve as a singular example of how online communication might be supervised with rigor, generosity, and imagination.”

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