Tagung „Emoticons, Emoji and Kaomoji“ an der FU Berlin

23.06.2016 - 24.06.2016

EmojisProf. Dr. Elena Giannoulis von der Japanologie der Freien Universität Berlin richtet eine interdisziplinäre Tagung zum Thema „Emoticons, Emoji and Kaomoji – The Transformation of Communication in the Digital Age“ aus, die womöglich auch aus Perspektiven der Comicforschung einige interessante Perspektiven bereit hält. Lukas R.A. Wilde etwa fragt in seinem Beitrag „Japanese ‚Working Characters‘ as Semiotic Hybrids of Emojis and Pictograms“ nach der Bedeutung einer besonderen ‚Manga-Bildlichkeit‘ zur Etablierung von Figuren (kyaras) in der alltäglichen Kommunikation.

„The „Face with Tears of Joy“-emoji was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 with the argument that emoji have the potential to overcome language barriers. For some, that’s a reason to celebrate, for others a sign of decay or loss of the importance of language.

Emoji 絵文字 („picture/image character“) are considered to be a further development of emoticons and were invented in the late 1990s by Shigetaka Kurita, who had worked for DoCoMo on the i-mode Project. The term „emoticon“ is composed of „emotion“ and „icon“ and can be understood as a pictorial representation of a facial expression used in Instant Messaging (IM), chats, emails, social networking services (SNS), SMS or blogs. The most commonly used emoticons, smileys, have been an integral part of digital communication for a few years. If smileys are composed of several punctuation characters, they are usually rotated ninety degrees, thus becoming lying images of faces. In Instant Messenger, certain strings of characters produce a certain graphic of a smiley. Meanwhile, there exist also animated emoticons which tell stories and represent scenes, or stickers as emoticons that are a kind of merchandise item. In interaction with a text, emoticons intensify, neutralize or weaken the content and interpret it, for example, in terms of irony; they give the text a certain „tone.“

Forerunners of emoticons, so-called stick-figure faces that were made up of punctuation marks and letters have been in existence since the second half of the nineteenth century. Although they were a marginal phenomenon, they have been used to humorously explain texts by adding a nuance through nonverbal communication. In 1963 there was a kind of rediscovery and transformation of the stick figure faces, as the U.S.-American commercial artist Harvey Ball designed the „smiley.“

While emoticons in written digital communication primarily express mood or emotional states such as joy, sadness, anger, satisfaction or anxiety, emoji as graphic symbols/ideograms not only express emotions, but also refer to animals, food, plants, sports, clothes, transport, or weather. Furthermore, they represent interpersonal relationships and (social) contexts. A special Japanese form of emoji, in which there are no limits to creativity, is called kaomoji 顔文字 („facial character“). While the image of „conventional“ Western emoticons is rotated ninety degrees, this is usually not the case with kaomoji. Since they not only consist of characters of American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), but also of the second Japanese syllabary „Katakana,“ they expand the forms of expression of the Western system of signs.

Japanese mobile phones have saved dozens of emoji for text messages. After entering a relevant keyword, users are able to decide whether they would like to enter an emoji instead of a Chinese character (Kanji), that is to say, whether to convert a word to a Kanji or an emoji. Some of the emoji are used and understood in Western contexts as well, while others are difficult to understand without previous knowledge. Therefore there seem to be both universally comprehensible and culturally coded emoji.

In the meantime, emoji have not only come to play a role in digital communication on the computer, cell phone or IPad, but they have now found their way into literature, manga, and art. Furthermore a blog called “Narratives in Emoji” offers stories and movie plots in emoji shorthand. Moreover, emoji have become a big commercial business.

Although emoticons, emoji and kaomoji are a new complex system of signs in the digital world and beyond, and although they have revolutionized our communication and the relationship between text and image and can even be considered as a new language, research has paid little attention to them so far. “Emoji” as a field of research could be of relevance to cultural studies, affective theory, sociology and linguistics but also to communication studies or literary studies.“

Vollständiges Programm:

Thursday, 23rd June 2016

10.00 Welcome and Introduction
Elena Giannoulis

10.15-12.15 Panel 1
Emoji and Language: A Global Phenomenon?

Discussant: Christopher Scholz (Freie Universität Berlin)

Jonathan E. Abel (The Pennsylvania State University)
Emoji and the Question of Universal Language

Alisa Freedman (University of Oregon)
Japanese Emoji and World Literature

14.00-16.00 Panel 2
Emoji as a Visual Communication Tool: Functions and Strategic Use

Discussant: Christoph Petermann (Freie Universität Berlin)

Michaela Oberwinkler (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
Emoticons in Social Media − A Sociolinguistic Corpus Analysis “Does a Japanese Grandpa
use Kaomoji?”

Marta Fanasca (The University of Manchester)
Impact taisetsu da!” The Use of Emoji and Kaomoji in dansō’s Blogs

16.30-18.30 Panel 3
Cross-Cultural Forms and Issues: Overcoming Communication Barriers

Discussant: Robert König (Universität Heidelberg)

Jin Liu (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Affective and Emotive Writing: The Newly Coined Chinese Characters on the Internet

Marzena Karpinska (University of Tokyo) / Katarzyna Rozanska (Autonomous University of
Barcelona) / Paula Kurzawska (Freie Universität Berlin)

Emoticons – Lingua Franca of the Young Generation or a Culture Specific Product Leading to

Christina Siever (Universität Zürich)
Iconographetic Communication in Digital Media: Emojis in WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram

Friday, 24th June 2016

10.00-12.00 Panel 4
Iconic Markers of Emotion and Affect: Medial Representations of Emoji

Discussant: Hajime Stadler (Freie Universität Berlin)

Lukas R. A. Wilde (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)
Japanese “Working Characters” as Semiotic Hybrids of Emojis and Pictograms

Satomi Sugiyama (Franklin University Switzerland)
Playful yet Powerful: Emoticons and Affective Labor

14.00-16.00 Panel 5
A New Mode of Creative Expression: Kaomoji in Japan and their Impact on
International Culture

Discussant: Niels Bader (Freie Universität Berlin)

Dale K. Andrews (Tohoku Gakuin University)
From Digital to Analog: Emoticons on the Prayer Tablets of Anime Pilgrims

Risa Matsuda (University of Tsukuba).
Construction of Iconicity in Scenes of Kaomoji

16.00-17.00 Final Discussion and Conclusion Remarks
Elena Giannoulis

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