Beyond the emoji

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Published on May 8, 2020 by

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Every day we send seven billion emojis worldwide. Although the colorful icons called emojis can no longer be ignored in our daily communication, little is known about it. Who has power over the emoji? Where are emojis coming from?

There is one “High Council” of online communication that is difficult to access and has the power over our emoji selection on the keyboard: The Unicode Consortium. This group is difficult to access and meets four times a year on the west coast of the United States. This tech giants committee makes decisions about language and shapes the infrastructure of the online world. Representatives from Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, IBM, Netflix, Amazon, and Intel set the global standard for symbols, characters, and fonts in digital (visual) language so that all our devices can communicate with each other effortlessly.

Part of Unicode is the twelve-member “Emoji Commission.” Director Mea Dols de Jong got a foot in the door during the quarterly meeting at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Seattle, but also ran into the shocking closedness of the tech sector. The deeper she delves into the world behind the seemingly little icons, the better she sees that this micro-world is a reflection of the “real” world. What does it take to get a new emoji on the phone’s keyboard? Take a look at the campaign for a new white wine emoji. Why is the LGBTQI rainbow flag emoji in the keyboards, but not the one that stands for transgender people? Where lies the power to make such decisions?

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