An explosion of shaving cream below the nose
December 29, 2017 2:56 AM   Subscribe

National Geographic reveals how biologists feel about animal emojis.

Still, at least the cheeseburger is correct now (previously).
posted by Stark (36 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
😿
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:12 AM on December 29, 2017


The trick you learn when designing glyphs is that literalism can harm readability . The bit about the pink ears in Microsoft's zebra emoji, for example: It matters less whether zebras have pink ears than it does that people seeing the glyph will imagine ears when they see the pink raindrop shapes where the ears go. The pink makes the ears look like ears where variegated grey would look like a point on top of the head, net result of which is that the zebra looks more zebra-like at very small sizes and less like a horned donkey head, even if the pink looks wrong at large sizes.
posted by ardgedee at 4:08 AM on December 29, 2017 [19 favorites]


I don't do...emoji.

🤣
posted by Samizdata at 4:10 AM on December 29, 2017


> ardgedee:
"The trick you learn when designing glyphs is that literalism can harm readability . The bit about the pink ears in Microsoft's zebra emoji, for example: It matters less whether zebras have pink ears than it does that people seeing the glyph will imagine ears when they see the pink raindrop shapes where the ears go. The pink makes the ears look like ears where variegated grey would look like a point on top of the head, net result of which is that the zebra looks more zebra-like at very small sizes and less like a horned donkey head, even if the pink looks wrong at large sizes."

That was what bothered me about the article. First off, emoji are an artistic interpretation of something meant evoke an image or concept with minimal thought involved in processing across language barriers in a VERY TINY package. Seriously, if I wanted to post a lion picture to someone, then I would use a lion photo.

That means certain considerations must be taken for clarity.
posted by Samizdata at 4:12 AM on December 29, 2017 [8 favorites]


Y’all. Scientists are underpaid and overworked and expected to be right 💯 of the time by an ignorant populace.

Let them have their beefs with emoji’s and blow off steam every so often lol.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:23 AM on December 29, 2017 [23 favorites]


(That said unlike the profession of graphic design scientists never had to contented with Corel Draw making every person with a computer think they are a graphic designer, so emoji designers, I hear your cry too.)
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:26 AM on December 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


Emoji are also basically an alphabet designed by a marketing team. There’s plenty to criticize.
posted by oulipian at 4:57 AM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


Oh come on, next you're going to tell me dicks aren't really purple and don't have stems. 🍆
posted by phunniemee at 5:30 AM on December 29, 2017 [49 favorites]


Morgan Jackson, an entomologist at the University of Guelph Insect Collection, points out that caterpillars don’t have antennae.

The Monarch caterpillar has front AND back antennae

(yes, I know those are not antennae, close enough tho)
posted by Fig at 6:01 AM on December 29, 2017


(yes, I know those are not antennae, close enough tho)

Close enough for science, anyway
posted by chavenet at 6:40 AM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


The section about bugs seems to me to be completely offbase, to the point of having been wedged in there to make up column inches. Obviously the “bug” emoji is not meant to represent a specific caterpillar or centipede or similar, but the generic concept of “bug”*. As such, a composite bug that looks like a caterpillar with antennae is a perfectly good rendering, and if anything, better for the task than one that's specifically one species.

* and, in vernacular English, “bug” is a far broader concept than “insect”, and broadly means “anything with six or more legs and an exoskeleton” (i.e., lobsters are sometimes referred to as bugs)
posted by acb at 6:41 AM on December 29, 2017


I wish that when you hold your mouse arrow on an emoji there would be a pop up saying what it is. About half of them are illegible.
posted by Bee'sWing at 7:02 AM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


Seriously though that Apple lion emoji looks like a fox with a mullet

And the LG lion emoji, it is nearly 100% identical to Apple's lion, I am having a hard time figuring out why they haven't been sued for plagiarism on that. Look at it, side by side, it's like Helvetica/Arial close, no question it was a rip-off
posted by caution live frogs at 7:07 AM on December 29, 2017


Plus this article ignores that there are both cute (🐯) and more realistic (🐅) versions of a lot. The "cute" ones are meant to resemble an animal the way a kid's plush toy resembles an animal.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:10 AM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


Also I am a zoologist who has in the past bitterly complained about how the female caribou in "Rudolph" ought to be sporting antlers, and laughed my ass off at the South American monkey in "Outbreak" getting "discovered" in Africa, so it's not like I am normally anti-biologist here
posted by caution live frogs at 7:12 AM on December 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


Obviously the “bug” emoji is not meant to represent a specific caterpillar or centipede or similar, but the generic concept of “bug”*. As such, a composite bug that looks like a caterpillar with antennae is a perfectly good rendering, and if anything, better for the task than one that's specifically one species.

Anthropomorphism is common in humans, but if our generic concept of bug includes "ants with googly eyes" then that's pretty screwed up. Science shouldn't be about what we want to see. Idealizing animals isn't a particularly helpful trait if we want to learn more about them.
posted by zarq at 8:09 AM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


> Emoji are also basically an alphabet designed by a marketing team. There’s plenty to criticize.

Yes and Babylonian was basically designed for bookkeeping, yet people ended up writing epic poetry with it.
posted by ardgedee at 8:22 AM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Their back end is not pretty
posted by Thorzdad at 8:22 AM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


(uninterested sloth wearing a sweatsuit and drinking a beer emoji)
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:22 AM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


I like how the entomologist has a possible scenario in which the insect is accurate:
Morgan Jackson, an entomologist at the University of Guelph Insect Collection, points out that caterpillars don’t have antennae.

“Unless this is a sphinx moth caterpillar who has been stressed and agitated into displaying its osmeterium,” says Jackson.

posted by Emmy Rae at 8:25 AM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'd like to hear from cryptozoologists about the accuracy of the dragon and unicorn emoji.
posted by FJT at 8:31 AM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


I never really thought about it before, but the phrase “don’t bug me” has much more relevance to me when it comes to emoji.
posted by valkane at 8:33 AM on December 29, 2017


Everything I know about landscapes I learned from Jackson Pollack.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:09 AM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Of course, it is the height of chimpanzee researcher arrogance to assume that the primate emojis are poorly drawn chimpanzees rather than purposeful monkeys.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:44 AM on December 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


I hope for the next article, they cover why Porhy Pig wears a jacket and no pants. Surely, wild pigs wear pants.
posted by jonathanhughes at 9:49 AM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


Let them have their beefs

beeves, surely
posted by poffin boffin at 11:34 AM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh come on, next you're going to tell me dicks aren't really purple and don't have stems. 🍆

Actually...83% of men have eggplants sprouting from their groins instead of flesh sausages, so that is the more correct image.
posted by MikeKD at 1:59 PM on December 29, 2017


I am a judge for scientifically accurate children's books, and if you want to lose a contest, here's how: put googly eyes on a bacterium. I know you are trying to make bacteria more relatable to kids, but you will lose.
posted by acrasis at 3:46 PM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


"Even when zebras die of diseases that have them bleed from their orifices, their nostrils aren’t pink,” says Hilborn.
Legendary buzzkill in an epic no-fun of an article.
posted by glonous keming at 4:09 PM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


beeves, surely

🥩’s
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:50 PM on December 29, 2017


The section about bugs seems to me to be completely offbase, to the point of having been wedged in there to make up column inches. Obviously the “bug” emoji is not meant to represent a specific caterpillar or centipede or similar, but the generic concept of “bug”*. As such, a composite bug that looks like a caterpillar with antennae is a perfectly good rendering, and if anything, better for the task than one that's specifically one species.

* and, in vernacular English, “bug” is a far broader concept than “insect”, and broadly means “anything with six or more legs and an exoskeleton” (i.e., lobsters are sometimes referred to as bugs)


I actually enjoyed the bugs part the most in this whole article. I honestly didn't know people called lobsters bugs. My students tend to only call insects bugs. To an entomologist, a bug is only an insect in the order Hemiptera. All other orders of insects are not bugs. (Also, centipedes are not insects.)
posted by hydropsyche at 4:20 AM on December 30, 2017


(i.e., lobsters are sometimes referred to as bugs)

They are? Do you mean in the sense that fish are referred to as sea kittens? The vernacular bug is much like the vernacular creepy-crawly - lobsters are too big to really qualify.
posted by Dysk at 5:56 AM on December 30, 2017


I've certainly heard lobsters get called bugs. They've got exoskeletons and antennae and creepy eye stalks. The delicious buggies of the sea!
posted by ChuraChura at 6:21 AM on December 30, 2017


Yes, lobsters are called bugs.
No, not in the way fish are called sea kittens.
posted by ardgedee at 9:02 AM on December 30, 2017


I realize now that for non-biologists, my phrasing in my response to acb's comment above may have still been unclear. There are literally millions of species of insects--about 2 million that have been identified and an estimate that there are likely millions more that entomologists have never seen. There are 80,000 species in the order Hemiptera (the "true bugs" in entomologist terms). The most diverse order of insect is Coleoptera, the beetles--there are 350,000 species of beetle. The complaint is not that the bug emoji doesn't accurately represent a single species so much as that it doesn't accurately represent the most diverse group of animals on the planet.

"Bugs" are awesome. People should like them. They are cool. They deserve cool emojis.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:36 AM on December 30, 2017


> They are? Do you mean in the sense that fish are referred to as sea kittens?

In Australian English, it's standard to refer to Thenus orientalis as "Moreton bay bugs".
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 10:47 AM on December 30, 2017


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