October 03, 2009

About the new Emoji Dick (Melville's Moby Dick; or, The Whale, told in Emoticon Images)

At least the creator of Emoji Dick has noble intentions:

I’m interested in the phenomenon of how our language, communications, and culture are influenced by digital technology. Emoji are either a low point or a high point in that story, so I felt I could confront a lot of our shared anxieties about the future of human expression (see: Twitter or text messages) by forcing a great work of literature through such a strange new filter.

First, I needed a public domain book that I could get the plain-text version of easily. The Bible seemed too obvious. I then wanted something very large and long, so that I could demonstrate the scale possible with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Moby-Dick seemed to fit those criteria, so I just went for it, and assigned the first couple chapters as a test run. The results were fantastic. I then realized that the story behind Moby-Dick is about this huge, seemingly insurmountable challenge, told using metaphors and stylized language, and in a way, that’s what translating a book into emoji is—a weird, huge challenge told in metaphors and stylized language.

--From The New Yorker's Book Bench Blog interview with Eyebeam's Fred Benenson

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