Emoji’s Revealed: Research Essay

Emoji’s Revealed

Alicia Quinn

Integrated Seminar Two: Visual Culture

May 4th 2018



Artist Statement

Understanding Identity Through Communication

Alicia Quinn is a design student at Parsons School of Design in NYC. She is a contemporary artist that works with many mediums and covers identification topics. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania and became an artist in 2015. She works with hand on projects that she paints and hand makes.

Her topics consist of behavioral aspects and self-identity. She first experimented with identification and the way past trauma has an effect of identity. She then moved to the behavioral aspects that people identify with. How addiction can affect behavior and how a new addiction replaces childhood addictions. For her topics she had to produce many researches and discoveries such as experiments with addictions. She finished her research with identification in communication. How humans behave online through digital communication. How communication online effects human interaction face to face.

Alicia’s hands on approach of creating projects relates to her topic because it represents that humans are not digital. They are indeed beings that create with hands and mind. Her project consisting of research in digital media and communication was presented in a handmade form to contradict the fact humans are becoming “digital” but are still human not robot.

Research wise, Alicia has discovered many facts on digital communication in form of emoji’s and icons. How icons and emoji’s are forming a new language. A language that is taking human gestures and facial expressions and exaggerating them to a point that they are not human-like anymore. Alicia also learned that this form of communicating is not replacing face to face human interaction and humans are becoming unable to communicate face to face. She would like to explore this even more to know what else this tactic is affecting in human identity. In terms of materials Alicia would like to explore digital forms of art to have the basics of all materials covered, although she would still continue with hands on making.









The world is engulfed in technology, Humans begin connecting more and more online through technology, texts and social media. Emoji’s are a platform of conversation humans can use. They are icons that imitate human expression and replace words. Emoji’s have negatively changed digital communication and they are disconnecting humans from important communication aspects they need to maintain healthy face to face communication skills.

FtF conversation is simply face to face conversation. An Emoji such as the green face throwing up is a nonverbal communicator of the human expression sickness. Something practical is using something without theory or intention. Electronic Communication is communication through electronic digital devices. Emoji conversation is communication using emoji’s through electronic online platforms. Human interaction is the way humans affect one another while connecting in person. A gesture is an action performed by a human to explain the emotion, for example in America a hand wave gestures hello or goodbye. Nonverbal communication is communication through facial expression, gestures, and online emoji’s. A frowning face is a nonverbal communication for a person feeling sad. Verbal communication is communication between two humans in-person.

Emoji icons have changed digital communication. Humans use technology as a new form of communication. There are now digital icons, emoji’s, used in online communication. Humans have been using icons as a system of communication “almost since the dawn of human civilization” (Yazdani and Barker 2000, p. 17) yet emoji icons are not successful in forms of communication because they are used for showing human emphasized emotion. The human gestures emoji’s try to portray are unrealistic and exaggerated, leading people to the knowledge that it does not represent true emotions. Because of this, emoji’s have become extra words used when not knowing what word to use.

Similar to FtF (face to face) conversations, online communication does have moments of nothing to say. Marcel Danesi in Bloomsbury Advances in Semiotics tells us that  “In face-to-face conversations, many people tend to interpret moments of silence as uncomfortable or awkward. Therefor a typical discourse solution is to fill these “silence gaps“ with meaningless expressions. (“The weather is really changing, isn’t it?” “Time is really flying these days,” and so on). In emoji conversations, people tend to use emoji’s as their interpreted moment of silence in a conversation. In written messages, the equivalent of silence gaps occurs when the receiver expects more information about something, whereas the sender wishes to avoid it. By putting Emoji in such content gaps, the intent is to counteract the uncomfortableness that may result from them.” (Danesi 2017, p. 19-20). Using emoji’s in replacement of words due to the lack of things to say, emoji use has become less contextualized due to this.  Matthew Preisendorfer, presented a paper at Department of Computer and Information Sciences in 2017 stating, “The idea of emoji’s and their emotional symbolic representations have been around for a while, but only within recent years has their use in everyday communication become prevalent.” (Preisendorfer 2017). Emoji’s are not seen as the way they were created, to symbolize human emotion.  People see that emoji’s appear as expressions but they do not use emoji’s as emotion descriptors. They use emoji’s as random placements.

There is the factor of people using emoji’s in replacement for words and this leads to the loss of communicating through words. The more humans use icons as words, the fewer words there will be due to words being overtaken by an icon. Una Mullally discusses this in a relatable and recent newspaper article titled On Emoji’s: “Does sending the lone red siren emoji better articulate the state of one’s hangover than a detailed explanation of what happened last night? Or should I really be worried about what part of my written communication emoji’s are eroding?” (Mullally 2016). People today will have the reader decode their message of icons rather than explain the story in words. This is because the person does not quite understand the emoji itself. If people continue this trend it will lead humans down the path of replacing words with something that has no real meaning. Mullally also comments on how human communication will become emoji’s that represent nothing by stating, “The more throwaway our communication becomes, the less tangible it is, the less of an effort it takes, the more cartoonish and overloaded it seems to become with exaggeration.” (Mullally 2016). Humans can not communicate with each other in person from the use of online communication being the largest influence on an in-person conversation.

Humans are disconnected from the important FtF conversation aspects when online communicating each day. Important things like eye contact and face expressions, hand gestures and voice tones can not be replaced with an emoji. Humans must see other human emotion to comprehend a conversation and for the conversation to be purposeful. Humans can only give and receive partial communication when hidden behind a phone. Being behind an emoji keyboard, it is impossible to explain a feeling of emotion because emoji emotions are exaggerated and unrealistic. For other gestures that are important for human ways to communicate, Mullally touches on this topic when stating: “Humans are visual mammals. We like looking at faces and searching for empathy.” (Mullally 2016). Humans need visual communication. Emoji’s make humans disconnected from the true vocabulary so much that the meaning of a sentence means nothing relevant. Danasi states, “The goal here is simply to show how general emoji use is now part of utterance meaning, indicating how it may have taken over the specific functions of verbal formulas, such as those used in salutation and expression of some emotions” (Danesi 2017, p. 18).

Humans will never exploit their real feelings over text: “Since males are often concerned about their modus operandi and how others perceive them, this might make males hesitant to post a tweet with a crying emoji.” (Preisendorfer 2017). People are easily able to hide their emotions. Preisendorfer continues with “A possible reason why we don’t see loudly crying face in the male top 5 emoji’s is that crying could be considered a non-masculine emotion.” (Preisendorfer 2017). Socially, men are not able to express emotions online and they fear expressing emotion in person as well.

Trying to make up for visual communicating with emoji’s and technology will lead to FtF communication becoming harder to understand. It takes away knowledge of recognizing real human emotion due to the fact emoji’s emphasize fake emotion. There was a study on children at a camp. In 2014, 51 kids spent five days at camp with no technology. When they returned the tests ran on them proved they could read facial expressions better in person. Compared to the children who did not attend the camp, they were unable to read facial expressions and body gestures as easily (Digiulio 2017). Technology is limiting our ability to read other humans emotions, something very necessary for human interaction to be successful. This shows that humans will lose their natural and most important ways of communicating if continuing to connect digitally. “Now, constant connection to the Internet via smartphones and laptops has changed long-established rhythms of human thinking. There used to be times when we were socializing and learning from the people and the world around us and times when we were alone with our thoughts.” (DiGiulio 2017). People being on their digital devices so often leads them to be disconnected from the real world and from real connections. Connecting on social media is not the same as connecting in person at a get-together type of event.

One important aspect most humans do not think digital communication will affect is affection. Affection is largely affected by emoji communication. A case study of men and woman who online date gave proof that it is impossible to be affectionate through emoji communication. “The communication motive of affection was negative for both channels.” (Narissa and Wagner 2018, p. 231). Since humans need personal affection, there will always be a disconnect if they try being affectionate online. Humans are not noticing what emoji communication is controlling. “But in the same way that advances in tech are outpacing our understanding of what it is doing to our behaviors and relationships, those changes are also outpacing our understanding of how it is affecting learning and thinking” (DiGiulio 2017).

Comparing verbal interactions and online interactions, Danasi describes ambiguity in saying “Ambiguity in the code has rather profound implications for its purported universality, given that one of the goals of artificial languages is to diminish, or potentially eliminate, ambiguity in verbal interactions” (Danasi 2017, p. 18). Ambiguity meaning the quality of communication. Using an artificial language such as emoji’s to communicate with one another allows conversation to not be serious or meaningful. The conversation quickly loses purpose. Connecting back to the topic of emoji’s replacing words with something meaningless.

Verbal connection, where connecting FtF is important, Emoji conversation is fake. Humans being led to a communication technique where you are not being seen such as texting is leading to false narratives such as looking good when you actually look terrible. A study shows that people prefer online communication for this reason.  “Consistent with other findings, communicating using text is more relaxing for males because they do not have to worry about how they look or act in a text message.” (Narissa and Wagner 2018, p. 232). Knowing who you are talking to and what they look like is an important aspect. Texting and emoji conversation takes this aspect away completely. Narrisa and Wager state: “Texting provides a venue to just communicate without being worried about any nonverbal elements.” (Narissa and Wagner 2018, p. 232). Not worrying is not human. If humans are constantly comfortable this leads to less full-bodied involvement and that leads to less real connections.

Emoji’s are growing with more themes, more symbols, and signs with each update we make. They are creating a new language. Emoji’s became standardized meaning all over the world emoji users have the same emoji’s on their keyboard. Emoji’s appeal to all religions and race. They appeal to every country and nation. Human future will continue growing in emoji conversation due to it spreading universally and being customized to each language. With the growth of Emoji’s and digital communication, humans are failing to communicate with FtF language needed to maintain important communication skills. Healthy communication skills have vanished due to Emoji conversation. Emoji’s have been introduced to the human world to ultimately disconnect it. Emoji’s negatively changed digital communication as well as taught humans how to disconnect from one-another.











Danesi, Marcel. 2017. “Bloomsbury Advances in Semiotics.” In The Semiotics of Emoji: The

            Rise of Visual Language in the Age of the Internet, pp. 19-27. Bloomsbury Publishing


DiGiulio, Sarah. 2017. “Your Smartphone Is Changing the Human Race in Surprising Ways.”

            NBC News, April 12. Accessed March 26, 2018.


Mullally, Una. 2016. “… On Emoji’s.” Irish Times, May 28. Saturday Magazine. Accessed           March 13, 2018.

Narissra M, Punyanunt-Ca, and Thomas R, Wagner. 2018. “ Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and      Social Networking.” In Interpersonal Communication Motives for Flirting Face to Face

            and Through Texting. pp. 229-233.  Accessed April 19th, 2018. doi: 10.1089.             https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/cyber.2017.0608

Preisendorfer, Matthew J. 2017. Social Media Emoji Analysis, Correlations and Trust    Modeling.” Paper presented at Department of Computer and Information Sciences,

SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Utica, New York. December.

Thumim, Nancy. 2014. “Self-Representation Online” In Self-Representation, Digital Culture and            Genre. pp. 157-181. Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan Limited.

Yazdani, Masoud, and Philip Barker. 2000. “Communication Through Icons” In Iconic    Communication. pp. 17-68. Intellect Books Ltd.



Alicia is a Parsons student studying Integrated Design.

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