L!v!ng L!fe 1 Em0j! @ a T!m3

Language studies have taken over my life this semester. Between my French class, Science of Language, and DMTP, I guess you could say I am learning 3+ languages at once. Maybe you should double that if you want to count written and spoken languages separately – because they are very, very different.

In my French class last week, I couldn’t think of the right word to use to express what I wanted to say, and I found that I started to slip in Spanish for all the words I didn’t know, without even realizing it. I haven’t studied Spanish for two years! It kept happening throughout last week (my teacher was very annoyed by this) but I wouldn’t be surprised if a string of HTML tags came out of my mouth in that class. If only there was a universal language that everyone could understand… oh wait – SYMBOLS!

Emojis, emoticons, stickers – I love them all. But there are a few problems here: (1) you can’t speak out loud with symbols, and (2) there are few people who can actually comprehend what I find to be a clever emoji combination as a sentence-replacement.

 Just as a pictogram of a house is easier to understand than the letters h-o-u-s-e, the same is true for the trashcan icon in comparison to the “rm” command. But it is difficult to precisely express the operation “If I am home tomorrow at six, I will clean up every second room in the house” through a series of pictograms. Abstract, grammatical alphanumeric languages are more suitable for complex computational instructions. (172, Florian Cramer)

This was me last night.

This was me last night.

This is my right now in Bobst trying to get this blog post done in time.

This is my right now in Bobst trying to get this blog post done in time.

This will be me tonight, thinking about my French and Science midterms tomorrow.

This will be me tonight, thinking about my French and Science midterms tomorrow.

And this will be me during my tests tomorrow, wishing I could just slap this Pusheen on the page and hand it in.

And this will be me during my tests tomorrow, wishing I could just slap this Pusheen on the page and hand it in.

But I think these stickers were pretty effective at conveying my thoughts, no? I also had captions to help me out. Ferdinand de Saussure states that “the symbols of computer control languages inevitably do have semantic connotations simply because there exist no symbols with which humans would not associate some meaning. But symbols can’t denote any semantic statements, that is, they do not express meaning in their own terms; humans metaphorically read meaning into them through associations they make.” (169) I realized however, that I never even read an instruction manual when I buy new technology. Who has time for that? I figure it out as I go. I’m sure there are a million tricks and shortcuts I don’t know exist on my laptop, but so much of it is intuitive and feels like second nature.

Warren Sack’s chapter on memory discussed the similarities between human and computer memory – they are basically the same. Actually, the computer memory is the “most viable model of human memory.” Why? Because it is modeled off of human memory. He quotes Herbert Simon, a computer scientist and economist, who says that humans and computers are both “symbol systems.”

“… Graphical user interfaces are based on the so-called ‘desktop metaphor.’ The metaphors of the desk, the trash can, and the mind-numbing operations of office work and bureaucracy are built right into the foundations of the computer and its user interface… shuffling through, stacking, listing, and filing were the ideals of ‘memory’ and ‘thought’ admired and implemented by the founders of computer science and interface design.”(190)

Before computers were machines, they were people – usually women – who worked together in groups compiling statistics, functions and logarithms. The machines we call computers were first designed to do the work of human computers. The original meaning of the word “computer” was those people who held the job of a computer. Interesting how the meanings of words change… and I suppose the meanings behind emojis could change in the same way as your associations with that symbol evolve.

I’ll just leave you with this:

Have a nice Sunday!

Have a nice Sunday!

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~ by Morgan Collins on October 19, 2014.