About twenty lovers of language gathered at UCSB Friday for Scriptworlds, a conference to explore new and old forms of human communication. One of the forms included emojis, the digital images and icons humans use to express ideas and emotions.
UCSB professor of English Dr. Sowon Park and Daniel Martini, a UCSB comparative literature graduate student, organized the event with the aim of opening up a discussion.
The discussion was to focus “on how we actually communicate in ordinary life, incorporating emojis and visual signs as part of our linguistic practices,” said Dr. Park.
To speak about emojis and visual signs, author Fred Benenson arrived for the first day of the conference. Mr. Benenson’s book, “Emoji Dick,” which is a translation of Moby Dick into emoji, was added to the Library of Congress in 2013 as the first emoji-focused book.
At the conference, Mr. Benenson spoke about software’s impact on script, specifically emojis. iPhone users, he noted, are rewarded for keeping the number of emojis per message at three or less. The reward? Bigger emojis than those of a message in which more than three are present.
“You’re being rewarded for choosing up to three emojis,” said Mr. Benenson.
Under this restriction, however, creativity can arise, he said.
“When people are forced into scarcity mindsets, they tend to be more creative,” said Mr. Benenson.
Mr. Benenson is currently analyzing how using three emojis can form a sort of grammar, a proto-grammar. He noted that this paralanguage of emojis can take on different forms of grammar such as subject verb object and verb subject object.
One thing Mr. Benenson is certain about is that software affects how humans communicate through regulation. The software of iPhone rewarding users for using three emojis or less is an example of the effect.
All this talk of emojis may seem silly for some, but there are others who believe the symbols are becoming an integral part of modern communication.
“We live in a digital and globalized environment where the 19th-century European model of a language is no longer satisfactory,” said Sowon Park.
Scriptworlds also aims to show that other less-known forms of languages, such as multi-script writing, have been “rendered invisible by the ideology of monolingualism and monoculture,” said Dr. Park.
Her co-organizer Mr. Martini is excited about Scriptworlds and the conversations that take place there.
“Just having this dialogue, it’s really rare you bring people together who are fairly different, and are willing to learn and listen and talk,” said Mr. Martini.
The second day of Scriptworlds takes place today at UCSB’s Mosher Alumni House. Speakers include Nancy Perloff, Kate Saltzman-Li, Alexander Beecroft and Dr. Park.
The conference is open to the public and is funded by the U.K. Arts & Humanities Research Council.