Emoji Dick

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Just recently a classic novel, Moby Dick, had been translated into Emojis (Emoji Dick). These tiny faces/signs/symbols which originated in Japan were used to recreate this whole story. Many small pictures now „narrate“ this novel but still are accompanied by the original text.

The „translation“ can be understood as a rather ironic observation on the use of language and writing nowadays. Emojis made their way into main culture through messaging, mostly via chats and mails. They are/were widely used to express emotions and to give written text on technical devices a human touch. They gave „spoken“ text back the missing facial expression and thus making it easier to understand the subconscious message. Emoticons complemented a text. In this certain case they reanimate an old classic by adapting it to modern times.

One has to know that it took a long time for the translators to make up this text in Emojis. There had been various versions that were rated and commented until one version made it into the book. The task of translating was being taken serious. But why would anyone do such a thing? Why would you pay money to translate a classic into a made-up sign-language?

Maybe because it answers to this modern society in a way that no-one ever did (at least when it comes to translations like these). It is a successful combination of low and high culture and it mirrors everyday life as we try to do the same by typing Emojis into our messages. But there have surely been commercial thoughts behind it as well when choosing a classic. First of all it is a widely known work that many people had to read at school and on the other hand there are no Copyright-payments to be made to the author since the book is old enough and is not touched by law anymore.  This combination of reputation and relatively low costs made an attempt like that possible.

But the success came with the notion that everybody could somehow relate to. We use Emojis everyday. It is a fun way to show that – now that there is a wide range of Emojis – whole stories could be told without typing a single word and thus omitting the usage of language. You don’t have to think of proper grammar or spelling when using a symbol. Sure, the plot is still there, but the unique writing style, the semantic and syntactic variations would have been lost without the original sentences written below.

The comment on this development is the release of „Emoji Dick“. It somehow raises awareness that our use of language is changing through time and technology. Our language-use got simpler – even without Emojis – because languages are shifting constructions that adapt on society. It is focused on speaking/writing English in this globalized world, but Emojis cross these boarders whilst forming a universal sign-language everybody can/could understand.

Poverty amongst students

I read in the news that there more and more students have to go get their food from the so-called “Tafeln” in Germany. These welfare groups give out groceries almost for free to those who are in need. Those groceries mostly have been provided by local supermarkets because they can’t be sold anymore (but still are good to eat).

In order to go home with a bag full of semi-fresh groceries you have to stand in line, pay a low amount of money and proof your poverty by showing a certain ID-card. On one hand this is a good way to make sure less food is going to waste and to help the poor, but on the other hand it is also embarassing for those people in the queue to show openly that they don’t have enough money to live off.

The article also stated that there is to be a “Tafel” established on campus of Münster University (a really well-known university town) since there is a desperate need for it. It honestly didn’t surprise me that students in Germany aren’t always able to make a living. According to a survey the average student makes around 864 Euros a month whilst the poverty rate ranges at 960 Euros. So even with student discounts it is hard to cope with this amount of money.

But the reality looks way different than that. There are a lot students living beneath the average figure stated by the newspaper (since there is a huge gap between incomes). In reality poverty amongst students – especially from working-class families – is common and many would be happy to have those 864 Euros because their families can’t afford a costly course of studies or they can’t even make enough by working part-time.

In theory there also exists a system called “BAföG” to support students in the welfare-state Germany. It was once introduced in the 70s in order to make it possible for working-class children to attend university by giving them a mothly amount of money as a loan. Only half of the money has to be paid back to the state after a few years (without interest). But what sounds like a good way to support students is a highly regulated system which depends on many different factors. It regulates how much a recipient is allowed to work for their maintenance, takes parental income into account and overall forces many into poverty that way.  In theory a student may get a maximum of 670 Euros, but only a small percentage receive that much (e.g. if your parents live off welfare-money). But other than that the average student receives 334 Euros. Even with the allowed amount of money a student can make by working (450 Euros) it doesn’t make living because the system counts on parents to step in.

But what if your parents aren’t able to do so?  The recent event in Münster and the acutal need for facilities giving out food shows that this so-called social security system fails to secure students. It shows that there is a higher need for ways of support and that “BAföG” is not enough to live off.

Society thinks, that it is possible to study without (financial) aid, but it isn’t. There acutally is a rising number of working-class children studying (also encouraged by “BAföG”) but it is far less than children of Academic families attending University. In the statistics this huge number of Academic children compensate those with lower income resulting in the numbers stated in the article.

On one hand everybody gets encouraged by the state to study, to be a citizen with good education who is able to give the state something in return. Every good educated citizen gives the State money, in the form of taxes, reputation and so on. Everybody is human capital to the state. In Germany with its highly export oriented economy it is extremely important to treasure knowledge and support the need to study further.

The german state on the other hand tries to encourage people to study with the help of a 40-year-old system that urgently needs to be updated and levelled to general income. There’s no use of a free educational system if people can’t afford to study or have to drop out because they don’t know how to make ends meet. Students don’t need riches but an amount of money that enables them to live without shame and relying on welfare. Someone who is willing to stand in line on campus with everybody to see really is in need.

Your healthy dinner on Instagram

One of the basic needs of human being is food. It keeps us alive and healthy but also fulfills a social element of society. Food is a reason to come together as well as a everyday life topic. By preparing cake and sharing it we make friends at the office. By having a big dinner we celebrate a special occasion. The Chinese even tend to ask their counterparts if they have already eaten instead of directly asking how they are (this question evolved in a time when people where short on food and thus making this information crucial to know).

In a world where you usually don’t have to worry about an empty stomach, food plays a different role than mere survival. It is also a means for individuals to express themselves. Food considered “good” (healthy, exotic,…) is more likely to be more expensive than food considered “bad” (fast food,…) and by that it becomes an instrument to seperate society. In modern times we know that there is a higher chance to become overweight if one possesses a lower income whereas it is easier to live healthy when earning an higher wage.

On the internet (especially Instagram) it has become popular to take photos of food in order to present them to the community. You can see nicely arranged plates filled with “good” food along with the matching captions and/or comments. People are showing off what they are eating…isn’t that bizzare? The users are telling everybody (who wants to listen) through those pictures that they are somehow living a better life. Food is seperating them from a lower class because “good food” implies also an ability to spend more money on alimentation.

With captions like “healty dinner” and so on, it is made clear, that there is only “good food” on the plate. But why is this so important? It seems like it has become a big trend to eat healthy (which is really good in my opinion) but it also reached a point where it became excessive. There are so many different kinds of “ideal” diets circulating in the modern world which makes it almost impossible to keep track of them. Food has become a new lifestyle. It is not organic alimentation or vegetarism that I am pointing at. I am thinking of trends like “clean eating”, “carbfree” or whatsoever which are mostly undergone just for the sake of losing weight.

So people do not only show off their better income but also their better lifestyle altogether. Especially amongst females it seems like it has become a trend to exhibit every meal they are going to ingest. They are spending time on preparing, arranging and posting food online. They do not only show the world how they’re holding up in their diet, they show their “good” way of living, again seperating themselves from others. They eat “better” than others. They have a better lifestyle. They are fashinable by eating certain foods. And they only know that because they can compare themselves to others by using Instagram.