Where have emoji come from? Why are they so popular? What do they tell us about the technology-enhanced state of modern society? Far from simply being an amusing set of colourful little symbols, emoji are in the front line of a revolution in the way we communicate. As a form of global, image-based communication, they're a perfect example of the ingenuity and creativity at the heart of human interaction. But they're also a parable for the way that consumerism now permeates all parts of our daily existence, taking a controlling interest even in the language we use; and of how technology is becoming ever more entangled in our everyday lives. So how will this split-identity affect the way that online communication develops? Are emoji ushering in a bold new era of empathy and emotional engagement on the internet? Or are they a first sign that we're handing over the future of human interaction to the machines?