In this post, I will reflect on diversity and representation in online communication. The prompt for this post asks us to focus on this through the lens of emojis/emotions and the release of diverse emoji choices in 2015 by Apple and 2016 by Facebook.
The initial controversy over the release of diverse emojis almost totally passed me by. I had an iphone but had stopped using Facebook. On the one hand, I simply don’t use emojis very much and don’t recognise some of the common ones. For example, what the heck is the difference between the meaning of these three?
(I’m happy. I’m happy! I’m happy?!)
On the other hand, I would also argue that I didn’t care because representation of myself online was not an issue I had ever faced. Now it is one I want to make better for others as much as I can. As a librarian, I feel I have a duty to care about issues of representation and accessibility in order to best meet the needs of the students and staff I work with. Libraries should be welcoming places for everyone.
I found it interesting to read about the conversations around the use of diverse emojis. One thing that really struck me was the point that technology and big data are not colour-blind but influenced by the conscious and unconscious biases of the researchers and developers behind them. There is always a human factor and gatherers of data and users of technology should try to be aware of this.
In addition to emojis, there is now also the possibility of Bitmojis, which allow users to play around with their self-representation to a much greater level of customisation. The Chrome browser extension isn’t working on the Cloud desktop I’m currently working on, so I haven’t been able to try this myself. Because I find words less confusing than nonverbal communication, it’s not likely to be something I try soon, but it’s good to know a bit more about it, and perhaps even to make use of in advertising some of the services my colleagues and I provide in the library.