On Children

Several weeks ago, I started the process of adopting a child through the Public Adoption in Ontario. I’m also reading Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (1993) these days. In it, they print Kahlil Gibran’s On Children from the book The Prophet (1923), but they titled it On Parenting. At any rate, I’m bringing it here because it’s beautiful and inspiring. 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
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On the Advantage of Being an All-rounded Emoji

Noa Yaari, All-rounded Emojis, 2022.

In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill writes “The man who has been active on campus, whose personality is such that he gets along with all kinds of people and who has done an adequate job with his studies has a most decided edge over the strictly academic student. Some of these, because of their all-rounded qualifications, have received several offers of positions […]” (1960, p. 60).

But an emojis is not a “man.” So, what is the advantage of being an all-rounded emoji? And what is an “all-rounded emoji” anyway?

An all-rounded emoji is an emoji that has more than one image in the system: a close-up and a whole-body one. Having these two kinds of representations reveals more about the emoji. The close-up shows its facial expression and mood; for example, whether it’s happy or about to say something. An image of the whole body shows its body language and attitude; for instance, if it’s playful or grounded.  

An emoji can present its all-roundedness through some complexity between its facial expression and body language. If we look at the pig and the rabbit above, we can see that their facial expression and body language signify different moods, where the faces are more energetic than the bodies. The cat and the dog seem to have the same cheerful state of mind in both their images. Like the pig and the rabbit, the monkey seems to hold varied dispositions. Most noticeable is its ability to turn its body and head in different directions; a posture that cannot be maintained for a long time, and thus, indicates dynamic attention.

So, what is the advantage of being an all-rounded emoji? If the emoji’s interest is to be used as many times as possible, then obviously, having several different images of it increases the times that it is used. In other words, its multi-faceted personality can match different types of moods and can get “along with all kinds of people.”

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Stickers and Emojis are Candies for the Eye

Noa Yaari, Stickers and Emojis are Candies for the Eye, 2022. Toronto.

The arrangement of stickers and emojis on a sheet influences the thoughts the viewers have while looking at them. For example, “what car do I like most?” or “a grape cluster can fall just like a leaf,” and subsequently, “which one would hit the ground first?”

Usually, producers of stickers and emojis spread them thematically on sheets. Stickers may be arranged either at random or in a grid. Mostly, their users have time to ponder which sticker to use and move it from the sheet to a specific spot on a surface. On the other hand, since emojis are digital icons in a “visual vocabulary,” they are always arranged in a grid. Their users need to find them fast, locate them in a specific place within a given line, and click their message out.

Both stickers and emojis are small and easy to handle. They are designed to be moved from their sheets to a different place, where they fulfill an expressive function. This replacement requires basic skills, which make them widely accessible. Stickers and emojis also save time because they are ready-made images. They enable the users to add shape and colour to their communication without creating them. The effortless use of stickers and emojis, and the great value they bring forth, make them extremely useful. 

Lastly, stickers and emojis are cheap; sweet, and cheap (that is, kitschy). Their thematic and visual simplicity, along with their low price, result in them being highly popular products. They are candies for the eye.   

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CRRS Fellows Workshop April 12: William Barker & Noa Yaari

Please join me at the Fellows Workshop at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, the University of Toronto on Tuesday, April 12, 4:00-5:30 pm (EDT).

Follow this link for details and registration to the live zoom session: https://crrs.ca/event/fellows22/

William Barker – Inglis Professor, University of Kings College, and Professor Emeritus, English, Dalhousie University; CRRS Fellow

“Looking at Erasmus: Problems with Portraits”

This short talk looks at the ways a portrait can be used by a biographer or historian to inform us about historical figures. Erasmus was depicted in different media by Quentin Metsys, Hans Holbein the Younger, and Albrecht Dürer. Because of Erasmus’ own importance as well as that of these major artists a lot has been written about Erasmus and his portraits. The deliberately naive question posed by this talk is “what can we learn about Erasmus from these portraits?” Can looking at depictions of his face tell us something about him? What is the truth in the image?

Noa Yaari – Artist, CRRS Fellow

“Art-Based Knowledge Mobilization at the CRRS”

Drawing on others’ scholarship is a well-known practice in academia; it shows the understanding and acceptance of “knowledge” as a communal enterprise. While knowledge moves from one agent to another, and evolves over time, however, it may take unusual forms, which raise questions about its essence and nature. In her talk, artist Dr. Noa Yaari invites us to view “knowledge” as a physical body that has spatial dimensions, which are necessary for its existence and validity. We will focus on her art project at the CRRS to explore shifts in the way we pass, preserve, and produce knowledge. This, in turn, will enable us to evaluate the field of knowledge mobilization and contemporary pop culture to advance the study of the early modern era.

Poster of the Workshop
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Using Emojis as Reactions on Zoom

Noa Yaari, Kissing Emojis on Zoom, 2022. Toronto.

On my December post, I was wondering if the engineers at Zoom can create shadows as a function in Background & Filters. This would add a realistic element to the filters that they already introduced into the platform. In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts about the application of emojis as “reactions” on Zoom, and in turn, their functionality.

The inclusion of emojis on Zoom opens new possibilities of communication through screens. Unlike their use in text messages or emails, however, their use on Zoom mostly takes place within a conversation, or after a live presentation. In principle, the visual reaction they embody follows spoken words, and may be followed by these or other emojis. What does the ability to “react” through an emoji to spoken, usually fast, communication do? And what can the hundreds of emojis on Zoom offer us in this context?

The ability to react through emojis relates to their amount on the platform. On the one hand, the availability of numerous, various emojis gives the feeling of freedom; since there are so many of them, the only thing that is required from the user is to know what they wish to express and choose the right emoji. The user ought to trust that whatever their message may be, there is an emoji in the collection that can utter it effectively.

On the other hand, the high number of emojis and the minor nuances between them may confuse the user, especially if they prefer to react in a timely manner. For example, note the difference between “kissing,” “kissing­_smiling_eyes,” and “kissing_closed_eyes” (see image above). Imagine yourself using one of them on Zoom; which one would you choose? Which among the three would be closer to what you feel and want to share?

The application of emojis as “reactions” on Zoom raises questions about how the company sees the activity on its platform. The emojis of “raise hand” and “clap,” for instance, are elegant visual solutions for a speaking environment. Moreover, they have become icons that can easily symbolize a period in our history. As such, their functionality goes beyond the platform, creating cultural codes on a global scale. How does Zoom see the functionality of the many other emojis? In other words, how does it see its users finding the time – the right time – to use them?   

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Bend With Me Sway With Ease

Michael Bublé

The Cover of Michael Bublé’s 2003 Album

Over the last month, I’ve allowed myself to develop a new addiction; Michael Bublé’s version of Sway. In fact, I’m listening to it as I’m writing these very words. I can listen to it forever.

Playing the song in a loop on YouTube gave me the opportunity to look carefully at the cover of Bublé’s 2003 album in which Sway is recorded. In it, most interesting is the relationship between Bublé’s eyes and the tittle over the “i” in “Michael.” To be accurate, it’s not Bublé’s eyes, but rather his pupils, the reflections of light on his corneas just above them, and the eyelash of his right eye. The combination of the dark holes, bright reflections, a wave of hair, and a little dot creates an intriguing composition. Why?

First, since Bublé’s head tilts downward, it seems as if he might collide with his written name. On the one hand, he doesn’t seem to look at it; on the other hand, the stretch of the name across the whole image emphasizes its two-dimensional nature. Nevertheless, Bublé looks at something beyond his name. Because he is so illuminated, he seems like the moon observing Earth. At any rate, because the tittle and the two bright reflections on Bublé’s corneas resemble one another, the tittle seems to gravitate them, and ultimately Bublé, toward itself.

Second, the “i” in “Michael” looks like a candle to me, with the tittle being the flame. This impression is strengthened by Bublé’s eyelash that moves upward, which could result from the heat the candle emanates. If the tittle can gravitate and heat at the same time, Bublé should be careful with his eyes. Suggesting that they are at risk makes this image intriguing.

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Animated Filters and Shadows on Zoom

Noa Yaari, Self-Portrait with a Filter and Shadows on Zoom, 2021.

I became aware of the animated filters on Zoom quite recently. They are one of my highlights of 2021. Engineers at Zoom, could you develop shadows for the objects that follow the user’s face? 

Happy New Year!    

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How do you cite a caption with an emoji?

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Using an Emoji in a Caption of a Painting

I recently started to use an emoji of a book in the captions of my paintings for my art project at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies at the University of Toronto, titled “Word and Image Relationships at the CRRS Library.”

Traditionally, we see images and captions as counterparts, where the image provides a certain view, and the caption provides information about this view or the artwork itself. If you look above, you see that the first line of the caption indicates the artist, the name of the artwork, its year of production, artistic technique, and current location. This is a conventional form of a caption. In principle, the role of the caption is to contextualize the image through minimal information; however, it can also be a space for creativity and play. Let’s answer two questions to better understand this possibility.  

What is the role of an emoji of a book in the caption above? First, as you can see, the emoji is of an open book; neither of a close one, nor of a pile of books. It is important because the painting is made on a printed scan of a double spread, on a “recorded glimpse” of an open book. Thus, the emoji shows the “canvas” of the painting, although in this project, I paint on double spreads that include at least one image, and in this emoji, there is only text.

Second, the emoji starts a new line in the caption. On its right, there is an entry of a bibliographical list, which we usually find at the end of a scholarly work. Here, we can interpret the emoji of the book as a visual affirmation that the bibliographical entry is indeed about a book, even if it is written in a caption of an image. By denoting both the physical base of the painting (a book), and the use of a specific book, the emoji raises the awareness of the choice to paint on books, on the one hand, and to paint on a particular book, on the other. Introspectively, it also points out the use of an emoji to do so.    

What is the effect of using an emoji in a caption of an image? In addition to the meanings the emoji may suggest, if it is colourful, for example, its presence seems to add “life” to the caption, just as colourful illustrations do in textbooks. This, in turn, increases the ability of the caption to pull the viewers’ attention toward itself. Does this affect the attraction of the image? Among other factors, it depends on the kind of emoji we use (book, heart, moon), and where we locate it in the caption (beginning, middle, end). To ensure that the emoji adds value to our work, we need to approach the latter holistically; to recognize that, beyond any categories, each of its elements is the preparation and the result of the other at the same time.

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Google’s 23rd Birthday

Google’s 23rd Birthday on Google Search

Apparently, today is Google’s 23rd birthday. There are so many reasons to wish Google a “Happy Birthday!” as it adds tremendous value to our culture and society. At the same time, I ponder where this culture of collecting and selling data goes. I wish I could get from Google and other companies the great products and services they develop without being constantly registered and targeted. Imagine the internet as a flea market.

At any rate, I want to write about the image that Google posted today on the Search homepage, showing an animated two-tier birthday cake, with chocolate icing, colourful candies, and a candle (see above). On the second tier of the cake, they wrote “23” to indicate the number of years the company has been around. The letters in the inscription “Google” above the cake look like cookies or doughnuts, and they are covered by chocolate icing and candies, just like the cake. Sweet.

What caught my eye this morning was the cake’s freckles that are spread on its face on the first tier. Since the chocolate icing above the face looks like the cake’s hair, we cannot identify the brown dots on the second tier as freckles as well. These and those on the “Google” inscription are probably crumbles. I find the use of the brown dots as both freckles and crumbles charming, and would like to take the challenge of explaining how this charm is constructed.

First, note how the pattern in which the brown dots are spread becomes less ordered as we go up the cake. The freckles are divided into two groups of five on each side of the face, while the crumbles on the second tier cover it somewhat equally, and the crumbles on the inscription are independent of any grid. Second, this gradual three-fold change in the pattern of the dots takes place in a small space. It means that the illustration requires us to adapt our interpretation of the dots quickly according to their pattern. What we think we see promptly becomes something else. This is how the wonder is constructed. The charm is introduced with the cake’s smile that is pleased with its wonder.              

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