Forget "emoticons," those strings of punctuation marks that form sideways facial expressions to convey actual feelings in e-mail and other digital messages.
The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences plans to offer a $10,000 grant tonight to the person or group that devises "a viable way to infuse digital communication with the same individuality and unspoken cues common in face-to-face interactions."
That could be a tall order, acknowledges IADAS President Tiffany Shlain. After all, typed messages are "restricted to simple text and symbols," she said.
But the San Francisco-based academy, whose mission is to push the creative and technical boundaries of new media, is optimistic. The group has even convinced Levi Strauss & Co., the financially struggling jeans maker, to put up the money for the grant.
The academy is offering no specifics about what it's looking for, and a solution could involve uncovering new ways to convey emotions using text symbols, by embedding multimedia images in messages, or something else. It said the challenge was left deliberately vague to encourage the widest range of creative ideas.
The grant will be unveiled in San Francisco at the academy's third annual Webby Awards, the Internet's version of the Oscars.