Jigsaw Puzzles, villages and emoticons

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Jigsaw Puzzles, villages and emoticons


The force of 'www' is gradually and subtly changing the way we live. Obvious I know. I want to move with it but sometimes the changes are so subtle and intangible I'm not sure 'what' exactly I need to move with. Sometimes I'm incredibly overwhelmed, yet somehow I'm always intrigued. I love people - talking to people, watching people, reading about people. Over the last ten years I've learnt to communicate with people online - and I'm still learning. I've experienced corporate life and now the opposite, running a humble little Internet company 'My Emoticons'. I grew up in England, moved to Australia and now live in Singapore. Diverse experiences help me solve jigsaw puzzles. I gather pieces of the puzzle from interacting and observing and then fit them all together and create a picture that tells a much more interesting story. Here's the story behind a jigsaw puzzle about villages and emoticons I recently completed. Sounds bizarre I know, I promise it will make sense.

Village life before emoticons and smileys

David Armano introduced me to the idea of a 'Relationship Renaissance' in an essay in the 'Age of Conversation'. Armano is incredibly perceptive, I read his blog often. He asks the question:

'Are we not seeing another Renaissance unfold before our very eyes? A Renaissance built off of us discovering each other? A Renaissance composed of a human Web woven through shared knowledge, interests and yes conversation?'

Armano's concept of a 'Relationship Renaissance' is based on the idea of individuals relating - to things and to each other - online. In the 'olden days' primitive simple village life made relating simple. This is the time before there were computers, before there were emoticons and smileys - before there was MSN Messenger - can you imagine? I knew where you lived and you knew where I lived. We talked and I trusted you. You told me about the new French bakery in the village. I visited the bakery and bought a fresh baguette. It was warm when I bought it. I had time to chat with the baker. He gave me a free croissant as I was leaving. Had I stolen the croissant, everyone would have known about it. We lived in the same village. We walked the same streets. We met the same people.

Then the age of mass communications came along, as described by Seth Godin as the 'TV-industrial complex' i.e. buy ads, get more distribution, sell more products and make more profit. It worked. It worked very well. People got rich. The Internet was invented. A few years later emoticons arrived on the scene - ascii emoticons (those ugly text emoticons) and a little later cool graphic emoticons were born, then they become even more cool when someone invented animated emoticons. But what happened in the village during this time? I didn't talk directly to people anymore. I didn't visit the shops. I started phoning my order to the grocer in the next village. He would deliver to my door. I didn't know him and I didn't know where his produce came from. It wasn't as fresh but it was cheaper and faster. Then I started ordering my shopping online.

Are the pieces of the puzzle starting to form a mental picture? Conversations become indirect and impersonal. Surely ads were more trustworthy than people in the village? I didn't have time to chat. I just wanted service - now. Right now, I'm in a hurry. Couldn't someone automate the process? Robots work better - right?.

But over time, things started getting complicated. There was lots of noise. I was getting increasingly frustrated with 'impersonal'. I reminisced about the little French bakery, forced to close when the 'big bully' supermarket arrived. I got disillusioned with cheap supermarket croissants. They pumped artificial 'freshly baked' smells into the supermarket. I believed it was real for a while. Then I found out the truth. But something has shifted. I agree with Seth, the impersonal TV-industrial complex is hemorrhaging.

Fitting emoticons and smileys into the jigsaw puzzle

So what does this have to do with emoticons and smileys? Good question. As I see it, emoticons are all about getting back to basics. It's about me taking the time to communicate and express myself - what do I really feel? Slowing down and taking the time to download some free emoticons that will liven up an Instant Messenger conversation with my friend on the other side of the world. At My Emoticons this is our passion. We discovered that lots of other people have a similar passion for free emoticons and smileys. So we design msn emoticons and give them away for free to help people communicate and express themselves in this huge global village we live in today. Our emoticons and smileys can be used on blogs too and even in email. Our purpose is this simple - create genuinely useful emoticons and in doing so start a conversation and you know what, people come to take a look. They hang around at MyEmoticons.com because they sense it's genuine. It is, our passion is very genuine.

I found there were lots of pieces in this particular puzzle but the picture itself is fairly simple. At My Emoticons, we want to talk to people and relate. We want to get to know people like you. We want to share our thoughts and ideas and weave a human web. In the global village, I often can't see who I'm talking to (although webcams certainly help). It requires some effort to get out there and initiate conversations but if and when I do, there's an opportunity to meet a diverse array of people. When I do meet people, the crucial fact is, I want these meetings to be personal and meaningful. That's why I feel our humble little website 'My Emoticons' has been accepted in the global village. Emoticons enhance online communication. They help people bring their personality to conversations emanating from the keys on a keyboard. More and more people are arriving in the global village from all parts of the world. Different styles of emoticons are evolving all the time. That's what we like. We don't think our emoticons are the best or the only emoticons people should download. We welcome competition. We look forward to more people entering into village conversation building genuine relationships and stimulating a real sense community in the global online village.

Written By: Charlotte Atherton

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