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Me and My Girlfriend Texted Only in Emoji for a Month

And a historical linguist explains why talking with images is so natural.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Face it, Emoji is here to stay. Texting is visual, and images can enhance how we talk. But, will it also change the content of what we say to each other?

In this intimate episode, one couple banishes all written words from text messages for a month to see how it alters their emotional vocabulary. Along the way they are forced to create their own lexicon of imagery -- oddly, not terribly unlike ancient Egyptians and Sumerians. Naturally, this 21st century couple hits a few comical communications mishaps as they build a visual language of two. At the end of the experiment, Emoji-only texting seems to morph from a guinea pig gimmick into a profound lesson in what is often missing from the written word: nuanced emotion. 

Grocery shopping though gets way harder. 

In this episode: 

  • Richard Sproat, computational linguist on the history of ideograms and visual languages

  • David Lanham, designer and creator of "stickers" for social networks on how he picks what zany characters you get to send your friends.  

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Mentioned in the audio: 

Image translation. Alex: I'm going home. Liza: I'm with a friend and she's had a death in the family, don't come to drinks with us. Alex: ? I'm gonna drink with other people instead.

 

(This is a re-edited, re-released version of an earlier show that covered additional topics: translating Moby Dick into Emoji and the story of Charles Bliss, the man who tried to build a global language entirely out of images.)

Guests:

David Lanham and Richard Sproat

Hosted by:

Manoush Zomorodi

Produced by:

Alex Goldmark

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