Karrie Jacobs


July 29, 2011

Emoticon Nation

Happiness measured at West Broadway and Grand, NYC.

Just last week I attended the press preview of a new exhibition at MoMA called Talk To Me: Design and Communication between People and Objects. I’ve spent the past several days writing a column about it for the September issue of Metropolis.  Today, there’s a review of the show in the Times.

While  Talk to Me is a remarkably generous collection of pretty cool stuff, mostly electronic,  I kept thinking that the work on display that should be the most inventive — student work and designers’ prototypes — isn’t actually any more advanced than what you can see on the street.

As if to prove my point,  an advertising billboard just went up on Grand Street in Soho.  It’s not a very attractive object, certainly not by  MoMA’s aesthetic standards.   But it is, in its creepy way, very sophisticated.  Jello is monitoring the number of smiley face and frowny face emoticons used in Tweets.  And based on this tally, they are judging the mood of America.  The man on the billboard’s mouth turns up or down accordingly.    In the time it took for the light to change at West Broadway, America went from sad to happy.  Amazing.