Media, Memes, Emojis and Other Digital Metaphors

Michael Crilly, Chris Morton

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper explores visual information and communication standards, their evolution in bridging analogue and digital formats, and the characteristic move from a modernism position to a condition of post-modernity.
The authors present an historical chronology of visual communication standards ranging from calligrams, typography, cartography, data or statistical diagramming, the growth of the infographics / picture language; all of which have been developed within the context of internationalization and the idea of a common language. Drawing together the shared structures evident in the analogue work ranging from Paul Otlet, Wilhelm Ostwald, Otto Neurath and Emanuel Goldberg to the dawn of the electronic or digital era of information as envisioned by Marshall McLuhan, case study and art-based analysis shows how the classification, visualization, organisation and governance of analogue information and data has much to teach us about pattern recognition and managing digital ‘big’ data. When entering the digital era, these visual communication standards are rapidly changing and have evolved into mixed, multiple and messy data sets, that now appear to need better mechanisms for curation, authorship and control.
The authors have used combined mixed methods; including content analysis and formal-structural analysis; to review archival analogue sources, and structural pattern recognition of digital communications, with specific reference to the use of memes and emojis.
The paper shows how dealing with the challenge of imposed explicit standards attached to analogue visual communication with a variety of attempts at centralised authorship / publishing, moderation and control, has clearly shifted towards devolved open-source digital communications that are characteristically self-referential with multiple layers of tacit and subject meanings. In so doing, highlighting what procedural mechanisms and controls are required for digital networks and smart cities, and how many of these already exist within an analogue format.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2020
EventConnections: Exploring Heritage, Architecture, Cities, Art, Media - Kent School of Architecture and Planning, Canterbury, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Jun 202030 Jun 2020


Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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