question of the weekend: Are emoticons and other nontextual forms of communication changing the way we interact?

I saw this ad recently, and was struck by its power:
hashtag ad

This instantly communicates not only that this author’s works are addictive but that people are talking about how addictive they are. (Or at least that the publisher would like you to think that this is the case.) The meaning of the hashtag has very quickly evolved from an indication for number to a hieroglyphic that has a lot more information embedded. Even the ostensible use of a hashtag on Twitter — to tag information — is often twisted to serve up an ironic spin, as in a hashtag that is sarcastic, or one in which the meta info is the content itself, as in a tweet I saw this morning, which read, in its entirety:


I hear this as the virtual equivalent of a moan. It’s textual, sure, but what it means is not at all what it says.

We’ve come a long way from simple emoticons, which are far more basic hieroglyphics.

And then there’s this clever ad, in which a couple carries on an argument that consists entirely of visual images and audio cues:

Users of Facebook and Twitter often upload photos to represent their current emotional states. Images such as this one:

Jean-Luc Picard facepalm

are often posted in Internet forums to encompass an emotional reaction to the topic under discussion.

To continue the Star Trek motif, we are taking on some of the aspects of the metaphoric method of communication that confounded the crew of the Enterprise in the brilliant Next Generation episode “Darmok.”

Are emoticons and other nontextual forms of communication changing the way we interact? Has access to a cheap camera in your phone and easy ways to send such information around and share it with the world changed how you communicate? What do you make of all this?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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