The Emoji: ¯\(ツ)/¯

Is it Valuable for Technical Communicators?

The public has been enamored with emojis ever since their introduction in the 1990s from a Japanese mobile phone company. Their visual appeal, convenience, and multimodality is what makes this visual communication tool so popular with the masses. The most well known technological companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft incorporate emojis into their software and electronic-mediated communication (EMC) to appeal to their targeted audiences. Several areas of scientific inquiry including psychology, consumer research, and education have adjusted to this new age communication tool. Emojis should be considered a valuable multimodal tool that could assist with curbing the common challenges associated with written comprehension and online communication. 

“Use and Interpretation of Emoji in Electronic-Mediated Communication,” a survey conducted by research fellow, Agnese Sampietro, is an insightful study that investigated the reasons why people use emojis. The purpose of this study was to analyze how emojis were recognized, their meanings, which categories of emojis have higher agreeance rates in their interpretation, and how come some emojis aren’t as easily recognizable than others. This knowledge is useful because if technical communicators were to incorporate emojis within their project, it is crucial to understand how audiences could possibly interpret an emoji’s meaning. 

The study also revealed some possible inconsistencies and issues that emoji use can produce such as the cultural differences and misconstrued connotations some emojis can present. From this survey, technical communicators can gain insight on the reasons why people use emojis, and, therefore, gain understanding of the multimodal value of emojis which can help enhance textual comprehension among audiences as well as make documentation more relatable and familiar for readers.

Emojis are an important aspect in today’s EMC spaces, yet their usage still garners a negative and unprofessional stigma in many professional communication spaces. However, the results of Sampietro’s survey hold valuable insight on the real reasons why people use emojis, and how they interpret them. The results of this research, along with research from past and future studies, can help technical communicators better understand and ascertain emojis’ visual communication value when incorporating them into the design of a document or software.


Use and Interpretation of Emoji in Electronic-Mediated Communication: A Survey, Agnese Sampietro

Viewpoint Written by Jeranda Dennis, Texas State University

Edited by Kimberly N Uzzel, Texas State University

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