Emoticons as we use them today originated in 1982*, although precursors have been discovered in Morse code. A member of a computer science message board suggested that :-)‌ and :-(‌ be used to indicate whether the message was a joke. The symbols quickly spread to other proto-internet networks. Although people had been communicating in writing for centuries, early users of email and the internet seemed particularly anxious about conveying emotion without the benefit of facial expressions or tone of voice. Perhaps it was the rapidity of communication that created this trepidation, and emoticons solved the problem by standardizing tone. Simple faces, stripped of ambiguity, minimized the potential for misunderstanding and added a friendly touch to sterile letters on a glowing screen.

The anxiety of their inception long forgotten, emoticons are now as innocuous as they are ubiquitous; whether as cute, slightly childish addendums tacked on to text messages, or ad campaigns trying to modernize their look. Certain culture critics, however, still insist that electronic communication is creating affectless youth who replace genuine laughter with a cursory LOL or :-D. The fear of miscommunication has been replaced by the grim prospect of having nothing to communicate, trading placeholders of emotion while feeling nothing. Emoticons, created to share feelings, have also become symptoms of the emotionally empty modern technophile, connected to a global network but distanced from human emotion.Dexter Miranda’s The Face We Make, challenges both meanings by reuniting the emoticon with its source: facial expressions that convey feelings. Miranda asked strangers on the streets of New York to perform the emotions suggested by ten common emoticons. The results are collected and exhibited in galleries, and the ongoing project is documented on the website thefacewemake.org. Miranda’s photos affirm the success of emoticons, and disprove the assertion that they replace genuine feeling.

The Face We Make reverses the process that created the emoticon. Symbols tame chaos and fend off confusion by reducing the world to abstract designs, instantly recognizable and readable. They distill a multitude of idiosyncratic expressions into an image so simple as to be universally applicable. Miranda’s project rediscovers the idiosyncratic in the universal. Photos of individuals all making the same face highlight difference while revealing commonality; despite their wildly divergent appearances and personalities, his subjects grin and grimace alike. Their reactions breathe new life into emoticons, reminding viewers of the person behind the screen.

This project demonstrates that emoticons—and universal symbols in general—are successful in what they set out to do. They alleviate some of the anxiety created by modern connectivity and communication by providing an accessible medium for emotion. Emoticons preserve the affection, irritation, or amusement they were designed to reflect. Far from deadening expression, they provide the catalyst for Miranda’s exuberant models to share their individuality.

Pica magazine présente une collection de publication indépendante conçue en série par des designers graphiques et artistes. Dans un monde où l’information numérique prend une grande place et où l’imprimé connaît un essor, Pica magazine souhaite soulever la question du futur de l’imprimé et de ces possibilités encore inexploitées. L’exposition Autopublié sera véhicule d’idées, d’esthétiques sur l’objectification contemporaine de l’information et de son organisation. Pica magazine et Palimpsest présentent PUBLIÉ/AUTOPUBLIÉ : une exposition de publications contemporaines dans le circuit de Art Pop chez Yves Laroche Galerie d’Art. Exhibition: Galerie d’Art Yves Laroche 6355 Saint-Laurent, Montréal

NOTES Fahlman, Scott E. “Smiley Lore :-).” Smiley Lore :-). Carnegie Mellon, n.d. Web. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~sef/sefSmiley.htm Garber, Megan. “Today, the Emoticon Turns 30 :-).” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/09/today-the-emoticon-turns-30/262571/

For students and schools, please ask permission if you are interested in using the pictures for research work, or anything other than posting an image on your blog. A separate image repository is available for your project. Contact: hello@thefacewemake.org

The Face We Make by Dexter Miranda is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International