Bardo Arts Center will stream the documentary Picture Character for free between Sunday, March 14, and Wednesday, March 17. The film, directed and produced by Martha Shane and Ian Cheney, explores the history and impact of emojis.
“Sometime around 2012, when I first added the emoji keyboard to my phone, I had an extended text exchange with a friend that was comprised exclusively of emoji,” Shane says. “It was hilarious to see how much could be communicated with this limited set of icons, and also where the communication broke down.” Shane didn’t immediately remember this experience when Cheney and producer Jennifer 8.
Lee approached her about co-directing Picture Character, but she acknowledges that conversation likely drew her to this project. “I was interested in the possibilities and limitations of a language of digital symbols, as well as how the emoji were designed, and yet the film ultimately evolved far beyond those initial questions,” she says.
Picture Character also explores the implications of this pictorial language, including its impact on identity, inclusion and representation. “Not only does it make the experience of using the Hijab emoji or the T-rex or the Face with Raised Eyebrow more fun and meaningful if you know the story behind it,” says Shane, “but more broadly, it’s important that we understand who’s building these technologies and what principles guide their decisions.”
Picture Character can be watched on a browser or through the EventiveTV app. Viewers have 24 hours to finish the documentary after they start it.
Learn more and pre-order your free ticket at arts.wcu.edu/picturecharacter.