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To frown or not to frown: The debate over adding emotions to the beloved poop emoji




A member of Apple staff pose with a new Apple iPhone X smartphone showing new emoji features in Apple's Regent Street store in central London on November 3, 2017 after it opened for the first sales of the new smartphone.
A member of Apple staff pose with a new Apple iPhone X smartphone showing new emoji features in Apple's Regent Street store in central London on November 3, 2017 after it opened for the first sales of the new smartphone.
CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images

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Have you ever wondered how emoji get approved to be an official part of the universal language of icons that many of us use on a daily basis in texts, emails, social media posts, and various other forms of digital communication?

You might be surprised to learn that there’s an official group of people whose job it is to play gatekeeper for emoji, and right now they’re embroiled in a debate with typographers and others who contribute to the digital language over the evolution of one of the most popular emojis around: the smiling pile of poop.

Members of the Unicode Consortium, which sets worldwide standards for emoji, are at odds with two prominent typographers over whether to include a new poop emoji with a sad face as part of the 2018 class of emojis set to be unveiled in June. Unicode approved the sad face poop emoji for consideration in 2018, but the typographers argue that including such an emoji would open the gates to a wide range of what they see as unnecessary emotional expressions for the poop emoji and dilute the larger body of language for which Unicode is responsible. While they have taken on oversight of emojis as a digital language as they have grown in popularity, Unicode is also responsible for encoding ancient and/or obscure alphabets and languages for use on the internet. The typographers add that this is just one example of a larger issue with the overall emoji proposal and approval process being commercialized, frivolous, and opaque.

The debate points to larger issues of Unicode’s role in approving emojis and a larger discussion between language encoders and long-time linguists about the role and importance emojis should have in our daily communications. Today on AirTalk, Larry talks with a sociolinguist and emoji expert about the emoji approval process and why this debate over a pile of poop has larger implications.

Guest:

Tyler Schnoebelen, sociolinguist and principal product manager at Integrate.ai, a startup that helps big companies understand their customers better; known as the “father of smiley linguistics”