This week we had a guest lecture from Dr Sarah Wiseman. She talked about her research paper titled Repurposing emoji for personalised communication: Why  🍕means “I love you”.

She talked about how emoji is reused or adapted by people for communicating beyond it's direct representation. She started by talking about the peach 🍑 and how we really use the peach. The thing which is really interesting with emoji is that the representation changes by platform (iOS, Android) but also by time, as updates often bring new characters and re visioning of existing ones, the changing of the peach being one such case, but perhaps the replacing gun with water pistol being a more political and purposed change.

It reminded me of friend who worked on the Guardian's US 2015 State of the Union written largely in emoji, and more recently Kyle MacLachlan writing a mini plot of Dune in Emoji. It's certainly fun and playful, but requires inner knowledge to decode. I was also reminded of Mojibake, which is a Japanese word for when characters get broken between different encodings and you would see the dreaded � character appear everywhere (along with other broken characters), this has largely been fixed by using UTF8, but it used to be a regular and very irritating  problem.

The talk also made me think about cockney rhyming slang, which is a similar reuse of English, with the intent of adding a secretive layer of communication. I also thought about the birth of Nicaraguan Sign Language, which I heard about on the radio a while ago. It was very interesting that it also evolved very quickly, so that people two or three generations behind would have difficultly making out the latest "version" of the language.

Sarah then talked about- analysing qualitative data using grounded theory a form of "open coding"

  • collect data
  • assign codes (anything pertinent to your data)
  • Looking at common codes
  • Perform with multiple researchers to ensure triangulation and validity to codes (independently repeat to find common coding)
  • The themes together become the theory

We had some really interesting questions from the class and some debate about language use and particularly thinking about how the French have an official controlled language through the Académie Française and but then contrasting that with the use of Verlan, and then also thinking about other argots such as polari. Finally I was interested in researching about how you could add and character to Unicode and found there is currently a campaign to add a period emoji, which seems like a very sensible idea. I then later watched this video by Femke Snelting on the much wider issue about how variations in skin tones has been implemented in emoji, and whether the push for accuracy helps or makes sense and what negative issues can arise from it.


On Tuesday I went to a Tidal Cycles meet up at Somerset House Studios. Tidal Cycles is very interesting project, it's a Haskell library which is used to write music often live in front of an audience, so called live-coding, where the code is usually projected so that it be read as the music and visualisations are made.

I first went to a live coding event ago upstairs at The Castle in around 2009. I remember it being really interesting trying to decode what people were writing with a mass of overlapping shapes from the live visualisations accompanying it. I wish in some ways that I had tried to get involved with the scene back then, but it didn't happen.

So coming to back to last Tuesday, I'm afraid I found Tidal still to be really tricky to understand (I have tried coding in it before). I think it uses regular Haskell syntax, which I haven't studied, and so it often seems like a strange mix of strings, arrays and magically characters whose exact purpose I can't fathom. I think it is also due to not having a background in music production with synths and trackers, and that if I had that then it might make more sense too. There's been a few people who have sounded interested in having an intro to Tidal Cycles workshop at Goldsmiths, so hopefully that will happen and I'll be able to get in to it.