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Emoji To Become Racially Diverse

Equality Tweets

Emoji are now as much of a staple of the modern day web-surfing experience as bad YouTube comments, faux pas-ing Twitter celebs and questionable political photos shared by your more obscure Facebook contacts. Wherever you go on the web, you're sure to see those cute lil emoti-quivalents popping up at least once or twice. They're constantly being updated, reimagined and given increased support online, and that's a trend which doesn't look like it's going to stop.
But something about emoji has been off since the beginning. While we thankfully live in a world that is multicultural, varied and (for the most part) accepting of other peoples and cultures, characters with darker skin have always been strangely absent from the emoji world (unless you count the devil, who is dark pink). While no-one thinks that the people who govern emoji (yes, that’s a real thing. They’re called the Unicode Consortium) have a secret, racist agenda, this absence of equality does seem strange - particularly when improving it would be so simple.

Rejoice, emoticon equality campaigners! Sometime in the future, emoji’s people are going to release an update that lets you choose the colour of your emoji before sending the little critters out. No-one's yet sure precisely how it's going to work, but from the released screenshots it looks like you'll be able to simply long press on the emoji of your choice and flick your finger up to decide what colour he should be.
Aside from making me feel like I've accidentally entered some parody of the internet every time I write it, the Unicode Consortium have been busy announcing on their blog (which is more like a book of contents) their plans for the change. Apparently, people worldwide want emoji that reflect racial diversity. While this may one day develop into representations of different cultures (different religions, for example), the Consortium are first focusing on skin tone.

In the next year, Unicode 8.0 (ie the version of emoji being used) will introduce a group of symbol modifier characters. People will then be able to use these five modifiers to choose from a range of skin tones to customise their generic emoji. Allegedly, there will be six skin-tones available for initial use, and these will be based on the Fitzpatrick scale - apparently the dermatological standard.
These codes then interact with the existing emoji, transforming their skin into the colour of the user’s choice. I won’t even pretend to understand why they don’t just introduce an entirely new set of emotes instead of going through a seemingly complicated, multi-legged system, but that’s why my job application for the Unicode Consortium was crumpled, spat on and laughed at.

The update is expected in mid 2015, so those desperately waiting for an emoji that 'gets them' will have a few months left to wait yet. I hope they're able to hold on.


Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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Emoji To Become Racially Diverse Reviewed by Emile Cole on Wednesday, November 05, 2014 Rating: 5
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