Abstract: A focus on the meanings, functions, and social uses of single emoji can no longer capture and portray the full picture of how emoji function in computer-mediated communication (CMC). In addition to modifying, illustrating and subsituting for words, social media users string emoji together creatively to form sequences that function like utterances in online conversations. The innovative and complex ways that users employ emoji sequences raise challenges for theoretical and practical understandings of emoji use and for the design of graphical elements in CMC. This talk reports on a study that analyzed the pragmatic meanings conveyed through emoji sequences and their rhetorical relations with accompanying text, focusing on posts by social media influencers and their followers on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site. The emoji sequences were found to function like verbal utterances and form relations with textual propositions, although their usage differs from textual utterances in several respects. Moreover, Weibo users innotive in creative ways syntactically that make the sequences more language like. Thus although there is not (as yet) a fixed grammar of emoji sequences, the evidence points directly to the creation and use of an emergent graphical language in CMC. This research provides a conceptual map for non-Chinese users to effectively deploy emoji to communicate with Chinese social media users and generates new insights to inform emoji design in social media systems.
Bio: Jing Ge is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Anthropology Department and Co-Chair of the Tourism Studies Group at University of California, Berkeley. She has a Ph.D. in Marketing Communication from the UQ Business School at the University of Queensland, Australia and has close to 10 years of online communication industry experience. Her research focuses on computer-mediated communication (CMC), the language businesses and consumers use on social media, and humour. Her current interests include visual semiotics and graphicons in CMC. In her times away from research, Jing does long-distance trail running and drives a high-performance car on the track.
Talk sponsored by the IU Center for Computer-Mediated Communication