Thursday, November 12, 2015

Emoticons, Emojis, and Evidence

This cool article, published by Slate a couple of weeks ago, outlines the history of emoticons and
emojis and considers several cases in which courts have been asked to interpret the meaning of these little digital characters. According to author Amanda Hess, the first emoticon appeared in 1982, when Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Scott Falhman suggested using :-) to convey jokes and :-( to convey seriousness on his department's online message boards. Since then, emoticons have evolved, to say the least. The Unicode Consortium, which standardizes text characters and emojis, now recognizes 1,281 of these digital symbols. 

Hess notes that, in many ways, emoticons and emojis are similar to the non-verbal cues that judges and juries have been asked to interpret for centuries. Just like non-verbal acts, which have various meanings, emoticons and emojis have no standard definitions. They can be used literally or ironically and can be interpreted by the sender and recipient in very different ways. I'm certain we'll continue to see more emoticon and emoji cases as this fascinating area of communication develops and changes.  

Happy Friday! :)

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