Can We Write a Universal Pictorial Language?

Greetings, everyone! Below you will see the beginnings of a project I am starting as a grad student at Mills College in Oakland, CA. I am a conceptual artist by trade and am looking to see if I can create a constructed language using input from people around the world in an online database.

The ideogram is a symbol used to represent a concept, an excellent example being ♥. Love, romance and the body part are all represented by this symmetrical heart, even though it does not actually illustrate the physical organ. It may seem that this symbol is universally understood, but it is loaded with thousands of years of religious and societal connotations. So then, we propose the following question: Can we write a universally understood pictographic language from scratch, ignoring the assumptions we make based on the symbols we see everyday?

Influenced by Xu Bing's Book of the Ground, the work of Charles Bliss and Blissymbolics, and modern constructed languages or ConLangs, we wish to work together with a wide group of individuals online to develop a Universal Pictorial Language (UPL). It is meant to be appreciated by the entire human audience as a way of learning the flaws of each other's native tongues, and what we take for granted as the symbols we believe to be universal. It will be a struggle, and we may never reach a satisfactory conclusion, but through this struggle we will learn a great deal about our societies and our means of communication.

This encourse will consist of two phases, constantly blending into each other - the online depository and the public seminar. Online interactions will consist of a forum to discuss common symbols and how they can be improved, and a place to submit new pictograms and add them to our dictionary. Public seminars will be brainstorming sessions with the public in which we come together to design up to 10 pictograms per session. Materials will include paper, pens, walls to hang things, and seating to create a communal debating area. The coordinator of the seminar will then upload the final images onto the depository for public discussion online.

There is also the potential for meetings coordinated locally to use the writing system and discuss its flaws as a group - this option is completely available to those who want to test the language as we begin to write it.

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