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Through The Emoji Looking Glass



An Augmented Emoji Tour of the Rijksmuseum*

*Part of a larger research project that brings emoji and museums collections together


WHEN: 2019

WHERE: Graduation Project from Design Curating and Writing Master at Design Academy Eindhoven. Shown at Dutch Design Week 2019 and nominated for the Gijs Bakker Award for Excellence in Design Research 


Collections, from art to emoji, are full of symbols. Sometimes these symbols are playful, sometimes political and other times problematic. Ironically, their ubiquity can make them unnoticeable, unconsciously consumed and accepted.


Visual collections and the symbols within them have inherent power. They are shaped by the culture they are produced in but they also shape this culture, reinforcing or challenging its dominant values and biases. What is included in the collection is legitimised and elevated in status whilst what is excluded is deemed unimportant. Constructed by gatekeepers who impose their ideas of order and categorisation, collections offer others very little agency for intervention. 


As worldviews shift and change over time, collections and their contents face cultural dilemmas. Can a collection transcend its origins in colonialism or other structures of inequality? How should collections deal with violent objects such as weapons or hateful imagery? What role does appropriation play? These dilemmas traverse the contexts of all collections, from the institutional to the digital. 


This augmented tour brings together two collections: emoji and the Rijksmuseum collection, creating new readings through a form of “symbolic exchange” that brings out the parallel cultural battles in their imagery, encodings, and systems. It highlights hidden or unacknowledged narratives and reveals the potential of visual symbols and collections to define our times. It also confronts the issue of hierarchy and agency in the interpretation of cultural languages.


The augmented reality tour in use at DDW 2019. Photography by Roland Smits

© Design Academy Eindhoven


The augmented reality tour in use by a visitor at the Rijksmuseum 


Map to guide visitors to the paintings that can be augmented in the Rijksmuseum


Map to guide visitors to the paintings that can be augmented in the Rijksmuseum


Still form augmentation exploring how should collections deal with violent objects 

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