I attended an art show titled ありがとう “arigatou” (thank you) on Saturday, November 9th, at Sanman Studios. The gallery displayed 30+ images, screened short films, and included a pop-up shop. Among the works of art, I encountered something unexpected — a petition.
A petition was posted to create new chair emojis. I’ve been interested in the intersection of creative industries, technology, and policy. It’s niche. However this petition was tangible, even if representative, “we (the citizens of the free world) demand that Apple Incorporated fully fund and create chair emojis as soon as possible.” Cool.
Chairs are objects and also staples in the lives of many across cultures. The concept that chairs are a universal object that connect cultures worldwide is not novel but is interesting. The petition calls out that there are many chair personalities but only one chair emoji: an airplane seat. Test it You’ll see. 😬
Products we use daily, connect us with cultures far away. Everyday objects unite us - the many variations of a coke, a writing pen, a coffee cup around the globe — different personalities — same function, same product. This realization interested me when starting Tumblr blogs was a thing and I started one to capture objects that unite cultures. So, this petition created by artist Cary Fagan, to have more representative chairs interested me and I considered how could an emoji change be implemented anyways.
Turns out, the Unicode Consortium curates emoji. Of the consortium’s membership, only around 17 have the power to vote. Google, Facebook, Huawei, Microsoft, Apple, and Netflix, for example — and even the Government of India can—vote. Full membership costs $21,000 per year.
However, even without membership, anyone can propose an emoji. Selection depends on specific factors that boil down to, “a) will the image work at the small size at which emoji are commonly used, b) does the emoji add to what can be said using emoji or can the idea be expressed using existing emoji, c) is there substantial evidence that a large number of people will likely use this new emoji.” So to create an emoji, you submit a proposal and, the voting members give it the thumbs up or down. Simple enough.
A successful sample of an emoji proposal for a Salt Shaker is here.
Whether you support the creation of a new chair emoji or not, the recognition that some products like chairs transcend cultural divisions is pretty cool. Chairs remind us that we are members of a global community and everyday objects can represent unity. The chair petition reminds us to challenge the arbitrary limitations placed on us by technology, more specifically the creators of technology operating systems, to focus on representation and what unites us rather than what divides us.