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Script: Cyberpunktuations?
Digitalization is just the most recent step in the abridging tactic of language. So
language survives digitalization easily because it has already traveled most of the way
there.
—David Bergsland,
Printing in a Digital World
Smileys are global travelers.
—David Sanderson, Smileys
The character Blp featured in chapter 5 serves as a prompt for thinking
about the profound impact that the combinations of punctuation marks
known as “smileys” or “emoticons” have had on our culture and thought.
No doubt there is some irony in the fact that the new languages of
“smi-
leys” and text messaging have created a market for printed dictionaries
and pocket books on the topic, in conjunction with the proliferation of
Web site indexes and “keys” to their usage. Here, I point out that we still
rely upon the culture of the book to guide us in the navigation of new
technologies.
Smileys are figures at once hieroglyphic, pictographic, and reso-
lutely—often in high resolution—visual. They too are part of the “image­
text” that is again predominate in our era.1 They call on us to be cyber
literate—to learn to read codes conveyed electronically, digitally, and in
a new way. Specifically, smileys require that those of us who are
habitu-
ated to reading horizontally from left to right, or in Hebrew from right to
left, or even vertically, must reorient ourselves so that we can read “side-
ways” or even backwards. Smileys supplement our reading habits and
open up new possibilities for perceiving signs. These new habits of mind
and body (did you tilt your head, or merely change your mind in order to
read them?) bespeak new movements—literally and philosophically (and
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