Emoticon, Emoji, Kaoani, Henohenomoheji, Shift_JIS art

old_emoticonThe expansion of the “internet universe” is determining lots of “collateral effects”, among these we underline the spreading of a certain “linguistic scissors” between the spoken language and the virtual one.
The global diffusion of chat and social services, tools of immediate access, often used through smart devices characterized by keyboards and video of small dimensions, available also on the move, is changing our way of expressing and communicating.
The virtual language, that is the “smart language“, is more and more synthetic, brief, ill-formed. First it has abandoned the punctuation, then the apostrophes and the accents and finally it has pushed aside the breaks, spaces and articles. But gradually, it is losing part of the vowels and consonants.
In some of the previous articles, we have pointed out the fact that internet is able to produce phenomena and tendencies as a reaction of rules and situations which characterize the real world. The new ways of communication, the new linguistic forms, confirm this axiom, that the world of the rhetoric, exposition, time and space with an exclusive use and available only for the few, finds its alternative in the social tools, direct, immediate and available to everyone: to the timid ones, the different ones, to the youngest.
A brachyological approach, in open contrast with the twentieth-century’s rhetoric, inclined to simplify, accelerate and reduce the waste of energies on the keyboard but, at the same time, able to provide an immediate contribution and, frequently, more sincere, participatory and collective, characterized by comments, opinions, emotions.
On top of this process we find of course the hashtags which became the common denominator of the cyber-thought, the glue between users who don’t know each others, the main vehicle for new tendencies and new debates. But it’s not just that…
Very close, still on the podium, we find the Emoticons, smileys, which represent facial expressions such as a smile or a frown, often used for emphasizing what was already said or in replay to what was just read (therefore fundamental in order to provide fast answers, simultaneously, to more friends or groups of friends). For instance it is widespread among the users of the chat WhatsApp, becoming a tool of global communication. The Emoticons have become the “salt and pepper” of our conversations. Hands up how many of you didn’t “spice” at least once a conversation or a comment with a smiley!

emoticonsIf we go further toward East we find the Emoji, pictographic symbols created in Japan. It is about entity characterized by a greater expressive detail, the same one “adopted” by Apple in its iOS system. The Japanese have a particular predilection toward these symbols, perhaps for the strong assonance with their method of pictographic writing. From a certain point of view the Kana, the syllabic alphabets which allow the writing in Japanese, are very close to these new tendencies, they represent the progeny of it.

EmojiAnd because the imagination has no limit, and consequently neither the forms of expression, online we also find the Kaoani, term derived from the Japanese kao (….smiley) and ani (….animation). It is about emoticon, normally very small, able to become animated in order to emphasize even more the concept. Altogether, in our opinion, the kaoani jump about a little too much. In fact, they do achieve their goal: to draw our attention.
In Japan the kaoani is also known as puff, blob souls, anikao or emoticon souls.
There are other forms of expression that are only apparently new, for instance the smileys denominated Henohenomoheji (へのへのもへじ) or Hehenonomoheji (へへののもへじ). It is about representations of faces, human expressions, used online but already present in the Japanese tradition as faces for scarecrows and masks. They are created positioning carefully some of the hiragana characters. In this case too, we have before us an expressive form that precedes the web advent: A form of simple communication, direct, childish, but at the same time immediate and rich of emotional potential.

henohenomohejiAs a background of all, we find forms of expression created in the early ‘80s, which use the set of characters ASCII, to put it plainly, that one that is currently on our keyboard and allows us to write. We are in the ASCII art, characterized by patterns, or better said by forms designed exclusively with the help of the special characters available on our keyboard.

ascii-snoopyTo confirm the “major plus” that the Japanese have in creating and using these expressive forms, we find the Shift_JIS art (Shift_Japanese Industrial Standards art), art which creates forms from the set of characters ASCII expressively enriched by the Japanese pictograms.
We clearly live the paradox where tools and new technologies determine a regression in the way of communicating and, at the same time, a remarkable increase regarding the quantity of the exchanged messages (not to mention how fast are exchanged and how many people are involved).
A global trend, characterized by various expressive forms, cannot be rejected by a simple urgency to reduce to a minimum the movements on the keyboard. There is clearly a trend in progress, which in answer to the expansion of our virtual relational net and the difficulty of contributing to our complex social system, tends to simplify, in a quite unique and original way, with the purpose of sharing emotional contents.
These new forms of art are the result of a precise process which includes the video games of the 1970s, the smileys, they too phenomenon in vogue in the 1980s, the SMS which allowed us to quickly communicate fast for all the 1990s, up to the new web, to the chats and the social networks 2.0.
After all, the web has only raised a sort of digital estate amplifying it on a global scale.


HASHTAG: the tool of social communication


The different morphology of cyberspace allows to overcome, through the use of social tools, the space-time obstacles and to extend algorithmically its own circle of acquaintances and available information. This type of tools improve the social relationships, set out and speed up the communication between individuals who don’t know each other, spread texts, links and digital contents, amplify a concept, an idea, a personal opinion as well as a recent news or even the latest one.
The social tool, which performs this task in the most innovative way, is definitely the HASHTAG. This is a powerful relational aggregator active on many social networks, even though characterized by small differences of use as well as lexical ones. Among these we find Instagram, Google+, YouTube, TumbIr and, above all, Twitter.
First of all I owe you an explanation consisting the difference between a dynamic aggregator of relational type and a “standard” social relational community type.
When I was a boy I used to meet my friends at the pub down at my doorstep and surely it wasn’t necessary to agree when. How many of us were present was of no relevance, the bar functioned as a “place of meeting” or of aggregation. Who went to the bar could have a chit-chat on any subject with a good part of his friends and also meet a new person, even if this, to speak the truth, happened rather rarely.
The present social networks are a virtual “place of meeting”, just as “my” bar, where I can communicate with my friends.
Let’s imagine for a moment that in my bar it would have been possible, according to the subject discussed, to communicate and debate with other people who, in some other bars, would have chatted on the same subject.

In doing so, people who don’t know each other and who, probably, don’t have in common any interest or any stable relationship, temporarily succeed in confronting themselves on this or that football game, news, television show, character or political faction. This close examination being ended, everything turns to normal, each individual in his own meeting bar, sipping his drink, unless he voluntarily wants to deepen other subjects proposed by “the other.”

This is, in simple terms, the task of HASHTAG, a thematic relational aggregator based on the terms inserted after the character “#”: the tags. In this case internet doesn’t amplify my real world but, algorithmically, it creates assonances among people who talk about the same subject /social theme and it allows the immediate traceability of it; thematic virtual communities, extemporaneous, between actors who don’t know each other, situation that, in my imaginary, I can picture you by adding another bar nearby the one I hang out, for instance, a billiard room.
The hashtag is the target, the sign; it represents the ideas, the actors, the main objects of the occasional community who makes use of it. It is the nucleus of this close examination and, at the same time, it is the fuel which feeds the close examination itself.
There is a clear symmetry between the term or terms used and the social actors who participate in the debate. From the sociological point of view, I consider HASHTAG as a social actor able to stimulate the participation, to create and relocate the debate, to build a new, even if fleeting, relational net.
The HASHTAG is also an innovative tool because:
– It must be anticipated by a symbol and this community-symbol symbiosis connotes the tag, it allows us to visually perceive its presence, it emphasizes the impact and motivates the participation. The hashtag is, in its own way, a symbol.
– A successfully HASHTAG may also have a brief duration butin this (brief) period of time, it can become a real brand, it may connote or determine a tendency or even new definitive social aggregations, marks, custom’s phenomena, social thematic groups and so on…
– It is also possible to insert in a single message more than a HASHTAG, with a sentence or with a link where I can say “everything” and, at the same time, the “contrary of everything” and therefore participate, contemporarily, in two or more specular round-table discussion. The insertion of more HASHTAG in a message, linked to one another, enriches the message, it describes it and at the same time it determines the participation of more virtual groups. This is clearly a ubiquitous tool.
– It is very difficult, but not impossible to create a new trend with the help of HASHTAG, after all, the same applies to the real world! It is really difficult to create new tendencies of talk and even more difficult to have proselytes.
– It is a “metatag“, a metadata algorithmically tracked by a software whose roots are not informatics or mathematics, but taxonomic. The tag is nothing but the modern heir of the subject’s terms and the keywords used in librarianship.
– Tag doesn’t admit spaces, some successfully HASHTAG are very brief and others extremely brief. Sometimes a tag is worldwide known therefore it changes and surpass the concept of “term in use in our language.”
That’s a fact, by now, that our lexicon is, let’s say, “dehydrating online” therefore it is becomes more and more abbreviated and slangy. Who knows what effects will have in time these “linguistic scissors“, maybe by the end of this century, the dictionaries will even contain thousand of acronyms just like a telephone book.
Other media such as radio, television, and recently, the politics, have perceived the potentialities of this tool. Just a few days ago the premier opened a debate on Twitter and, in the same period, a new television show bloomed on Italian SKY and that is: “Third time”, where an impartial expert sports reporter answers, in no time, to all kinds of questions and invectives tweeted and posted by the enthusiastic Italian supporters.
The HASHTAG doesn’t connect only people to contents and contents to people, it also functions as a “bridge” between the new and the old media.
The HASHTAG, sociologically, can consider itself an “acting subject” or a social actor, not human, but able to perform the active role of the main character on the social networks’ construction.
The HASHTAG is a tool of occasional communication, but at the same time, is powerful, popular, social and global whose strong point is exactly this duality inside its syncretistic, fleeting, but at the same time lasting soul.