The problem: the on-going discussion over user experience of the emoji keyboard
Possible solution: conducting research from literature review to ethnographic reseasrch.

Project timeframe: Sept 2016 - current
Background: Sociolinguistics (course description attached) course at Teachers College, Columbia University.

A journey looking at language variation based on social class, race, ethnicity, age, and gender. We also discussed topics on cross-cultural pragmatics, interactional sociolinguistics, code-switching, etc. 

Linguistics Research


For our final project (instructions attached), we were challenged to select a topic (some suggested topics attached) based on our interest and deliver three mini literature review-critique for three sources of our choice. They could be academic papers, journals, news, or other forms of media. I decided to do research on --

Artboard 2 Copy.png



Major Research Sources

As I started to get specific with what aspect of emoji I'd like to study, I found some social issues and challenges emoji(s) faced. Here are the three sources I collected (to critique).

  1. 😀 them or 😡 them, emojis make our messages feel more like us
  2. What communicating only in emoji taught me about language in the digital age
  3. Emojis Would Show Women Doing More Than Painting Their Nails



Findings (quoting myself)

The education field might be able to cultivate creative individuals who deliver great ideas through concise messages and individuals with great linguistic capacity to switch between various forms of communication, comparable to the perform code-switching through various registers. More details...
Emoji has evolved in response to criticism of racism, sexism, etc. For example, it has been challenged for representation of race and gender. The release of new series of emojis expanded the representation of skin tones; however, up to that point, some software or websites that provide emoji keyboards still had not addressed representation of women. More details...

Emojis lack structure to tie content, and they are not fixed in meaning, which are highly open to interpretation across cultures or background knowledge. On the bright side, though, emoji use also fosters creativity by forcing the user to parse semantics without language. More details...


Problems and Further Research Questions

After the Sociolinguistics course ended, I got more interested in the questions I discussed in the emoji world, and wondered if I could do further testing to make emoji better a means of communication, which I mean, making it a more effective communication path instead of one creating confusion. One specific problem I am interested in, is how users select emoji to help getting their words/emotions through, and how they hope to use the emoji keyboard.

Currently, I am designing a survey to find evidence in the following specifics:

  1. most-frequently used emoji
  2. preferences of emoji across three platforms (iOS, Facebook, and (Facebook) Messenger 
  3. common purposes in using emoji
  4. challenges in interacting with the emoji keyboard.