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Emoticon-based “Moby Dick” gets its day in the sun: In the US Library of Congress

“Emoji Dick” now an historic work of art

By Layer 8 on Fri, 02/22/13 - 3:25pm.

us library of congressThe US Library of Congress welcomed Moby Dick onto its vaunted shelves this week but it wasn't the famous Herman Melville-penned whale tale version oh no, it was the version told exclusively in emoticon - you know those little signs like J, ;). Emoji are the emoticons typically used in Japanese texting though they obviously are used world-wide to annoy or entertain everyone depending on your opinion of them.

Called "Emoji Dick," the emoticon book project was undertaken back in 2009 by data engineer Fred Benenson.  According to the Library of Congress' blog, in 2009 Benenson started a campaign to fund the "Emoji Dick" project and within a month raised enough money to put it together - $3,500.

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In his proposal on the book, Benenson explained, "I'm interested in the phenomenon of how our language, communications and culture are influenced by digital technology. Emoji are either a low point or a high point in that story, so I felt I could confront a lot of our shared anxieties about the future of human expression by forcing a great work of literature through such a strange new filter."

The book was produced through Amazon Mechanical Turk, which is part of Amazon's Web services suite and offers users a way of completing work by employing crowdsourced helpers to complete a task for money of course.

Benenson said each of Moby Dick's 6,438 sentences was translated 3 times by thousands of different Amazon Mechanical Turk workers. Those results were then voted on by another set of workers, and the most popular version of each sentence was included in the book.

From the Library of Congress blog:  "Emoji Dick" joins many other versions of Melville's "Moby Dick" in its collections, including a 2008 graphic novel version, a 2007 pop-up book and a 1984 adaptation for young readers. The classic novel also appears as part of Melville compilation volumes, with different editors and introductions, translated versions in Chinese, Russian and German, and of course the original version from 1851 recently featured in the Library's "Books That Shaped America" exhibition.

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