Smiley is no longer some kind of strange symbol for profanes and became an important part not only of the net but also of the everyday life. There are many articles and writings about those, who have invented a smiley, who has written it as first, about how it has been invented and how it has changed since that time. But I have almost never seen an article about graphic smileys, although thanks to even this type a smiley became so widespread and popular. Let's speak now about a graphic smiley, the kolobok, about its role in the contemporary internet, its supporters and opponents, about intercommunication etiquette, artistic value and let’s find out, which form does it have now and may have in the future.
No contemporary chat or guestbook can exist without smileys. Open any Internet pager and You’ll find our “friends” in different forms. Graphic smileys were not always as popular and respected as now. In first years of the graphic smiley’s creation among net users were mainly business people who used the net for work only. The part people who used the net just to disport grew together with the internet popularity and availability. Even such simple users are now a driving force for graphic smileys popularization as we can see it now. When graphic smileys were just created, it was incorrect to use a drawn smiley in a serious message. Many corporative programs, forum scripts has special versions without graphic smileys. Since then comes this negative attitude and disregard of those who actively uses such smileys.
1."First wave" smileys by Major Pronin.
There is a quite big amount of internet users, who are if don’t call them graphic smileys opponents, in no way fans of them. These are the people having come from the net Phido or existing in IRC channels, they either accept smileys only in ASCII code or don’t accept them as a communication means at all. Either they are power users presenting their attitude to smileys as a manner to show their unique status and "selectness". The most interesting is that such opponents express their distate for smileys and smileys fans in an aggressive way and sometimes even unceremoniously. Taking into account neither the age of the interlocutor nor his status. One may find in such aggression a kind of revolt against existing rules and norms, a kind of challenge against the internet community, an opportunity to show one’s individualism: “Everyone loves these goddamned smileys! I hate them and think that the only colon with round bracket may be seen as a real smiley. The rest of them is for pink glamorous diaries! They clutter up the language! Who can not express something without these stupid faces is …!” To blame or to abuse such attitude is as stupid as to abuse people who use these graphic smileys. There is another category of haters – anti smiley groups. Let’s think about why people are so aggressive? One confirms, smileys damage the printed conversation because of their emotional content. People have to learn how to express their thoughts with a "normal" standard language. Just imagine Your conversation with such person in the real life. He will tell You a good news without laughing, he will speak expressing no emotions, just saying that he is glad to see You and that all is well. Isn’t it a good example? Is it possible to show emotions in the real life? Then let’s take a net conversation, when You have say to one individual using literarily expressions, that his presence on this forum or blog is pleasant or unpleasant for You. But the answer lies nearby: “antismileysts” are for the most part just dryasdusts, pompous people who treat emotions (in the net as well as in the real life) for something unnecessary and needless. It’s no accident that such opponents are mainly of a rational mental structure and with set towards mathematics (they write scripts, programs). Unlike the graphic smiley opponents of the first category, that like smileys in a form of symbols, the second type opponents like or use no emotions at all, except of funny, sadly and (the top of their emotionality!) put tongue out. But fortunately not every programmer or coder belongs to this type. There are quite normal people who uses to express the whole scale of emotions not feeling shy and not taking into account any stupid prejudices. Many contemporary forums and programs have options which help You to deactivate graphic presentation of codes. Although it can not solve the problem because of some reasons described above. Dissatisfaction exist mostly because of unskillful users who paste smileys in every message not thinking about its necessity. And the amount of smileys is sometimes immeasurable. It tells of a low net culture level, but net etiquette is to be observed as much as written or unwritten rules existing in every society.
2.ICQ 5smile or How It Should Not Be Done
The rules of conduct in internet have been forming for a long time and a beginner who wants to get into a forum or blog has to know main of them to avoid being a black sheep and to arouse no resistance or criticism by his awkward behavior. There is a special communication etiquette in the net, which includes also graphic smileys usage rules. We won’t go into particulars discussing this problem, one can find a lot of articles to this subject in the net. Suffice it to say that the immeasurable smiley usage in one message shows Your low culture level and net illiteracy. The same happens when one uses smileys without any sense and pastes them only for fun, the smiley doesn’t make any sense in such message. Net newcomers are easy to recognize by several marks: awkward smiley usage, not understanding of abbreviations’ sense (IMHO, LOL, RTFM and so on), and also by their net names (Vovan2006, Macha013, SeregaElf, and so on). But we got off the subject. So how did actually the first graphic smileys look like?
First wave smileys were painted in a very simple form and represented simple symbols for existing ASCII codes. They showed a nearly exact matching of these codes and were of a small size and volume. The internet users’ opportunities increased high-speed connections appeared like ADSL, that were connected with a big traffic capacity. Graphic smileys began to change slowly. They could express a bigger amount of emotions, and some smileys came out of the standard perception of a smiley as a simple way of ASCII code transfer. First animators appeared, who painted the needed emotions taking into account the visitors’ wishes. Smileys now contained difficult animation, which became more complicated every year.
3.Invision Power Board smile. As in any other situation, among the great amount of drawing smileys people surfaced the first painters, who stood out from the crowd. Their works were like no others and make up the internet gold reserves now. But the virtual reality development is closely connected to the development and progress of the reality itself. Graphic image of programs, internet sites, forums and other components of the visitors’ visual environment has changed and became full of complicated graphics, designer latest things, unintuitive interfaces. Requirements for such aspect of a graphic smile as its style and appearance have consequently grown. Old smileys’ format became not good enough for many users, administrators and program authors. Many companies decided to fill the existing vacuum themselves and told their designers to paint graphic smileys in the same style with their program product. But such meaning is wrong what is to be seen in every particular episode. Every graphic smiley of such type undoubtedly has success and its own army of fans. Mostly this popularity is connected with the fact that such fans just habituate to use such pictures in the everyday net life and perceive them as the best way to express emotions. For example: any internet pagers’ smileys, or smileys of different forums types. The company Invision Power Services was the only one which has chosen the right way: this company has created its’ own graphic set with one successful smiley painter based on his popular works. This set became so popular in the net, that those who use these smileys have nearly no notion where do these smileys come from and who their author is. What is meant here are the Nominell smileys in his graphic set for forums Invision Power Board. Smileys of this format are of a great designer appearance. They fully correspond to the modern design tendencies which are proudly named "Designed for Windows Xp" or "Mac OS X style".
Smiley has changed, with its look the animation complicacy has also changed. If the animation was firstly some kind of a makeweight, now it is a very important part of a modern graphic smiley. That’s why contemporary painters are usually named animators. There are many smiley sets made by professional painters. They have none of the animation frames and they are also popular among a particular category of users. But they aren’t widely used. Animated pictures are by far much more popular. The process of such smiley creation is consequently not as simple as it may appear. There are many unfinished bases for smiley creation in internet to find, also some writings that help You from the moment of creating an idea till its realization. But there are not as many really worthy works as there are persons wanting to paint such a worthy work. Graphic smiley from its simple form and the essence of its name "emoticon" began to have the outlier "animated" – which is derived from the verb "to animate" – to give life to; to fill with life. Modern graphic smileys became animated, filled with life. It is a new step in the development of such phenomenon as a graphic smiley. Это новый этап в развитии такого явления, как графический смайл. It is difficult to agree with the statement, that modern smiley is just a picture or how people usually say “But it’s just a smiley!”.
Modern graphic smiley is no longer similar to a text smiley, and the difference between these two types became so big that one could hardly name them the same or put them on one line. Graphic smiley is a separate direction where every author can bring something new in the standard emotion concept. If one follows the codes used by programs, forum, guest books or magazine scripts, one can see that nearly every emotion is symbolized by designated with symbols that differ from the smiley text version. From the standart set only the simplest symbols are left: smile , sadness , eyewink and so on. The rest of them are special symbols for those graphic works that are drawn by one author or developed by concrete community and have special signs. Smiley concept, symbol, code are sometimes understandable only for those who are acquainted with rules of a special users group by whom it is used. Now it happens seldom that someone communicating in chat, pager, forum writes just from memory the code symbolizing this or that emotion, it is easier to click the necessary icon in smiley bar. It’s another proof that graphic and text smile are very different and that they have less common but the same roots and tasks, namely – to help people express their emotions. It is more correct to say that the graphic smiley is a branch or evolution of the smiley itself. And that’s incorrect to forget the graphic smiley when talking about smileys in general or to connect these two different concepts in the one. Just think about what will happen if one day all the programs and internet sites stop to show graphic smileys and write only their codes.
It’s an interesting fact that GIF has got its main status as graphic smiley format, although there are some more “graphic” ones like PNG, JPG. And it has not been changing technically for a pretty long time. So better the smiley development progress from the simple to the complex can be seen, which in some way resembles the cinematograph evolution from black-and-white films to colored sound films. Its further development within the frame of animation formats can be consequently expected. Now GIF is seen as an unspoken “king of the net”, it has still much joy to bring users with emotional smiley pictures. But sooner or later another format comes to change it, new painter will come and draw new works in a new format. Then we will speak about a new age in the evolution of graphic smiley as a type of the net art. Although this art is framed by internet, it has its own history, rules and unwritten laws, own talents and fans.
Best regards, Mantsurov Ivan, aka Aiwan.
ASCII - American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Computer coding for Latin alphabet, decimal numerals, some punctuation marks, arithmetic operations and command chars; Fido - Fido net. International noncommercial computer net; IRC – real-time communication chat; IMHO - In My Humble Opinion; LOL - Laughing Out Loud; RTFM - Read The Following (Fucking) Manual;