Monday, May 3, 2010

Rives tells a story of mixed emoticons

By Shelby F.

Humans are a very diverse and complicated species. Over time we have managed to acquire numerous ways to communicate with one another, whether in a verbal, physical, or written fashion. These communication skills have flourished and developed through the years, creating things like new languages that are used all over the world; such as sign language or braille. In this TED talk Rives touches on the rise of a new language that uses emoticons to express meaning, by telling a story through textual images.

He begins his speech by providing a visual of some emoticons that he has come across since researching this new language. Some of the emoticons he shows are as follows: :), =), <:3)~~ (mouse), >^..^< (cat). While he is sharing these emoticons he explains what they are in a tone that seems very skeptical, as if he finds them ridiculous. From there Rives moves on to a short, yet very confusing grouping of letters, numbers and punctuation which to the trained eye is in fact a short story told through emoticons that he created. The story commences with a male stick figure that meets a girl and expresses his feelings of affection towards her, all the while using the language of emoticons and a simple rhyme scheme. Rives continues with the story using effective emoticons that support the story, and throws in a lot of humor to keep the tale alive and the audience entertained. Some of the emoticons he uses to tell the story are very creative and display the flexibility of using emoticons: o}-< (stick man), :(|) (monkey), })i({ (butterfly). Rives then ends the story, and provides the audience with a memorable presentation of what the language of emoticons can do. The after-effect of this speech allows the listeners to think to themselves whether or not emoticons are an effective way to communicate. It also shows us how communication has developed in the world and the creative languages we humans have invented to express ourselves.

Many people can relate to this topic that Rives has brought to our attention. Emoticons can be used on cellphones in text messages, or on computers. Most people today have these items in their household. Personally, I use emoticons to add effect to what I want to say (basically I use smiley faces or pictures like: :D or <3). They're very useful in situations when you would like to soften your words or express excitement. People use them frequently in the world today. Whether or not Rives believes emoticons are a good way to communicate is unclear. At the beginning of his speech he seems very skeptical about the emoticons, through the tone of his voice and his body language. He gives off a vibe that the whole idea of using textual images is uncanny. The humor that is used throughout the speech also shows that he isn't completely taking the language seriously. On the other hand, even though Rives delivers his speech as if it should be taken with a grain of salt, the story he tells while using the emoticons is very effective. The audience was interested, the point of the story was clear, and it created interesting visual images.

I believe that Rives did a great job delivering his interpretation of emoticons. He has obviously spoken in public before as he used a clear voice, expression, and he looked very confident. Throughout the speech Rives kept eye contact with the listeners. His visual slide show helped to support his opinion nicely, and kept the audience interested. These are all characteristics of a good speaker. One thing that I admire about Rive's use of emoticons is how he managed to put together a paragraph of symbols and build a story off of it. But I still have to question the practical use of the emoticons. Yes his story did make sense, but only because he was telling it. If the audience were to be given that paragraph of emoticons without a guide to explain what the images meant, there would be no way of telling what the writer was trying to say.

In that regard, I remain neutral on the use of emoticons. Rives presented a fun and witty way of using emoticons to communicate with others. Emoticons are great to use when backing up written text. I find, much like Rives, that emoticons are effective and great to use for recreation and creative purposes. But as a language itself, I think it would be ineffective.

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