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Emojis to amuse and inspire

Publishing & Media

US based Twitter bot, New York Public Library, finds emoji alternatives.

In 2009, artist Fred Benenson conducted a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise money for him to translate Moby Dick into emoji. The pictograms have changed the way we communicate irreversibly and a number of tech innovations have grown out of this linguistic development. Amongst them, a banking app that uses emojis to help customers save money, and a bot that uses the cute little graphics to plan meals. However, a new innovation from the New York Public Library (NYPL) rather than seeing emojis as a sign of cultural impoverishment has instead used them as creative inspiration providing Twitter users with fascinating historical and artistic images corresponding to emojis.

When a Twitter user sends in an emoji, a search is made in the NYPL’s vast digital library and a related image is selected. The social media bot then tweets the image retrieved back to the user.  Over 8,000 pairings have been tweeted to date. So, for example, a lantern emoji returns an illustration of chinese lantern makers. Or an emoji of a hand pointing upwards produces an engraved print from artist, Gustave Saal, dating back to 1849. The account tweets twice daily and the collection of 800,000 digitized images are available online from NYPL.

The source code for the bot has been made available on GitHub for those interested in the detail of how it works. How else can bots be used to delight and educate audiences?

Website: www.digitalcollections.nypl.org

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