Diversity in Emoji

Have you ever wondered why the Simpsons are all painted yellow? Groening, the creator of the Simpsons believed whenever someone was flipping through the channels, they would automatically know the Simpsons was on when they saw the yellow bodies flash by. Cut to today, and there are a set of people who aren’t happy being identified as ‘yellow’ albeit on the digital medium.

Apple in its new release of Yosemite has made an option available which allows people to pick the colour of the emojis in up to six shades. While I am all for inclusiveness and an increase in the emoji database to reflect the local cultural nuances, it hasn’t definitely gone well with most of the people.

Emoji Colour-shades

On Weibo, China’s largest microblog, some bloggers praised the new selection, especially since previous Apple emoji depicting humans had only come in a single shade: white but more users found the yellow toned emoji mildly offensive (there is a long racist history of using “yellow” to describe Asians) or just inaccurate. Read here. To me, it’s sounds all the more surreal because there were even a recent attempt to ban wordplay so as to encourage pun control.

And all of this makes we wonder what would Paul Grice, the father of linguistics, would have thought of. Grice argued that conversation is a joint activity, an activity that cannot be achieved without the cooperation of its participants. However, I think the rules change drastically when the conversations move online in a non-immediate setting. I have dwelled more on this in a longer Medium piece. There are many aspects of the digital communication that do not account for local cultural nuances and it’s not strange because the biggest internet organisations are headquartered in the US and to give them a fair play, it’s really difficult to the local traditions given that there are so many diversions and discussions within the micro-communities as well. However, it’s also worth noting that China and India now account for the second largest and the third largest internet population in the world and it’s only bound to grow for the future posing a not so easy conundrum.


What cinema does to you!

There are 154 reviews (and counting) of The Grand Budapest Hotel on TripAdvisor, which is ranked “#1 of 1 hotels in The Republic of Zubrowka”.

While it has seen better days, the charm and ambience are not to be missed. You can still feel Mr, Gustave watching over the staff. The service was impeccable and the lobby boy’s discretion will be appreciated. Go for the Mendel’s chocolates on your pillow, steal a peek of Boy with Apple in the servants quarters, but stay for the turkish baths.


Line breaks: irony
Pronunciation: /ˈʌɪrəni /
NOUN (plural ironies)

1The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect


early 16th century (also denoting Socratic irony): via Latin from Greek eirōneia ‘simulated ignorance’, from eirōn ‘dissembler’.


Via Twitter

Visualising the internet

The internet has been described in innumerable ways. At times, it is difficult to imagine the force which we interact we act with so often. Spending most of our days in front of a big screen and then the small screen in our pockets, my attention is certainly divided.

A couple of days back I read this wonderful book by Andrew Blum called Tubes. Blum became hung up on the lack of physicality associated with the Internet. The journey to find exactly what places support and connect with the Internet was triggered following an unusual interaction with a squirrel in his backyard.Once when Blum’s internet broke the cable guy came to fix it, he said something which appeared extremely preposterous to Blum.He said ‘I think a squirrel is chewing on your internet’. And this of course seemed absurd, because as all of you know the internet is the great changer of everything, it has changed revolutions, and dating and shopping and anything that you might imagine.And then Blum realised if he yanked off the wire from the wall, it had to go someplace. So, Blum went on an adventure to find the buildings, installations and people who make the Internet what it is today which ended up in completely unexpected but wonderful book.

Ben Mendelsohn explores this subject in Bundled, Buried & Behind Closed Doors, a short documentary on the internet infrastructure. He takes us inside 60 Hudson Street in New York City, a nondescript building that houses one of the major nodes of the Internet on the east coast of the US.

Timo Arnall,a designer and artist from London, has documented the hidden spaces,the series of massive servers, wires and equipment tucked away in high-security buildings in his project Internet Machine.

And, there has also been an attempt to visualise the immaterial, the network around us which carries multiple giga-bits of data around us in the immaterials project.

In the words of the designers, the Immaterials project emerged from the humble preoccupations of a few designers dealing with some of the invisible, immaterial, intangible stuff we had in front of us. These small experiments led to larger and more visually and narratively communicative work. In the end what I think we’ve developed is an approach to technology that revolves around material exploration, explanation and communication.

Image via

Comic Culture

British Library has this most brilliant exhibition on comics, Comics Unmasked. The exhibition not only traces the history of comics but also how comics have influenced other industries like music, video games and films.

The exhibition recreates the desk of Mark Millar, one of the greatest comic artists of the UK, with a monitor showing clips from Kickass and a note which said ‘And you really thought this was made in Hollywood?’ or something to that effect.Millar’s other popular comic include the Secret Service which has also recently been turned into a film.

Kickass was a good film but Kickass the comic is even more fun.

I am just amazed at how culture undergoes so much of transformation while travelling ‘across the pond’ and transcending mediums.


Anthropologists of commerce

I have always enjoyed browsing Etsy, the online marketplace for DIY and crafts.

Today I chanced upon this very interesting way of how they describe themselves (and I guess they do not do it anymore!)

Etsy is the marketplace we make together. We’re anthropologists of commerce. We’re curious about people and what they make, exchange and consume. By looking around at the stuff that matters to our lives, we believe we can understand more about what moves us as human beings.

Etsy image

If you too like Etsy, head over to Cap Watkins’s blog who is the Senior Product Design Manager at Etsy and often blogs about the online design process at Etsy.

tl;dr: Early Summer edition

The days are longer and while you lounge in the park here are my recommendations on what you may have missed on the internet.

1. How do you define the new ‘cool’? A stab at answering what might be an unanswerable question by studying how brands and companies become cool in the eyes of consumers- http://qz.com/213643/how-do-you-define-cool-a-new-paper-tries-and-succeeds/

2. Neil Gaiman talks to Art Spiegelman. Yes, did you ever imagine! https://vimeo.com/93195839

3. Theory of Everything is among my favourite podcasts and I strongly recommend a hear. This episode http://toe.prx.org/2014/04/1984-the-year-not-the-book/  reminiscences 1984 and brings to you TV commercials, radio spots, movie clips from 1984 (the year, not the book). Find out what totalitarianism really sounds like.

4. Understand different schools of philosophy in the form of colourful geometric graphics – http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/04/14/philographics-book-genis-carreras/

Self-indulgent tip: While you enjoy the links, find time to read some of my digressions on Medium – https://medium.com/@akshatk/