Funded! This project was successfully funded on October 19, 2009.

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Translating Moby Dick into Japanese Emoji Icons using Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

Overview

This project will fund the production, via crowd sourcing, of a never-before-released translation of Herman Melville's classic Moby Dick in Japanese emoji icons.

Here's an example of an Emoji sentence from Moby Dick:

Why

Here's an excerpt from an interview I did with the New Yorker's Book Bench about Emoji Dick: No, seriously—why? I’m interested in the phenomenon of how our language, communications, and culture are influenced by digital technology. Emoji are either a low point or a high point in that story, so I felt I could confront a lot of our shared anxieties about the future of human expression (see: Twitter or text messages) by forcing a great work of literature through such a strange new filter. Out of all the books out there, why “Moby-Dick”? First, I needed a public domain book that I could get the plain-text version of easily. The Bible seemed too obvious. I then wanted something very large and long, so that I could demonstrate the scale possible with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. “Moby-Dick” seemed to fit those criteria, so I just went for it, and assigned the first couple chapters as a test run. The results were fantastic. I then realized that the story behind “Moby-Dick” is about this huge, seemingly insurmountable challenge, told using metaphors and stylized language, and in a way, that’s what translating a book into emoji is—a weird, huge challenge told in metaphors and stylized language.

I also really like the whale emoji, so that seemed like a good fit, too.

Methodology

Each of Moby Dick's 6,438 sentences will be translated 3 times by different Amazon Mechanical Turk workers. Those results will then be voted on by another set of workers, and the most popular version of each sentence will be selected for inclusion in the book.

Here is a sample of a test run I've done on the first couple of chapters:

In the book, the sentences will be arranged with the Emoji on top of the page and the English sentence at the bottom.

Rewards

Supporters pledging $10 or more will get their name and emoji sentence of their choice in a 'Thank You' appendix of the book.

Supporters pledging $20 or more will receive a limited edition signed frontispiece.

Black and white copies of the books will then be printed and sent to all supporters pledging $40 or more.

A limited edition hard cover color version of the book will be available to those supporters pledging $200 or more.

All supporters will receive a download link for the PDF of the translated book, and the raw data results of the Mechanical Turk tasks.

This work will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Special thanks to photar.net for the emoji extraction.

FAQ

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  • Pledge $5 or more
    You selected

    10 backers

    and receive a PDF of the translated book, and the raw data results of the Mechanical Turk tasks.

  • Pledge $10 or more
    You selected

    22 backers

    and get your name and an emoji sentence of your choice in a 'Thank You' appendix of the book, a PDF of the translated book, and the raw data results of the Mechanical Turk tasks.

  • Pledge $20 or more
    You selected

    16 backers

    Limited edition archival frontispiece signed by author, the PDF of the translated book, and the raw data results of the Mechanical Turk tasks.

  • Pledge $40 or more
    You selected

    23 backers

    and receive black and white soft cover copy of the book, a limited edition archival frontispiece signed by author, the PDF of the translated book, and the raw data results of the Mechanical Turk tasks.

  • Pledge $200 or more
    You selected

    9 backers Limited (1 left of 10)

    and receive a limited edition hard cover color version of the book signed, dated and numbered by me, a limited edition archival frontispiece signed by author, the PDF of the translated book, and the raw data results of the Mechanical Turk tasks.

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Funding period

- (29 days)