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Emoji Semantics, Culture, and Society

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By design, emoji are defined with no rigid semantics attached to them, allowing people to develop their own use and interpretation. Thus, similar to words, emoji can take on different meanings depending on the context and part-of-speech. In this lecture, we will discuss how emoji meanings are assigned. We will look at how semiotic theories and relationships inherited from language elements (paradigmatic relationships) can be used to explain emoji meaning assignment. We will look at past research that tries to assign meanings to emoji and how emoji meaning changes with mobile platforms, cultures/geographies, and society/user groups. We also look at how special Unicode characters are glued to create new emoji, thus, leading to new emoji meanings.

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Emoji Semantics, Culture, and Society

  1. 1. Emoji Semantics, Culture, and Society KNO.E.SIS CENTER, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY, DAYTON, OHIO SANJAYA@KNOESIS.ORG | HTTP://KNOESIS.ORG/PEOPLE/SANJAYAW/ | @SANJROCKZ SANJAYA WIJERATNE Anthropology 189:001 Anthropology of Social Media: The Study of Emoji GUEST LECTURE AT THE ANTHROPOLOGY DEPARTMENT OF UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY ON 27TH FEBRUARY, 2019. MC: KELLY GUO
  2. 2. Overview  Background – Formal languages & emoji  Background – Semantics  Emoji semantics How emoji are composed?  Emoji meaning assignment and derivation  Social and cultural emoji meanings  Unicodes that change emoji meaning 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 2
  3. 3. Background: Formal Languages, Social Media Language, and Emoji
  4. 4. What is a Formal Language?  Consists of words whose letters are taken from an alphabet and are well-formed according to a specific set of rules (language grammar). E.g., – MARY WALKED THE DOG. Alphabet = {A, B, C, D, E, ……. X, Y, Z, .} Words = {MARY, WALKED, THE, DOG, .} Rules = {{SUBJECT, VERB, OBJECT, EOS}, {ARTICLE, NOUN}, ….. } 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 4
  5. 5. Language Used in Social Media  Consists of words whose letters are taken from an alphabet. Words can be both well-formed and ill- formed and don’t always follow strict grammar rules*. E.g., – YEEEESSS #QUEEN #OSCAR19 Alphabet = {A, B, C, D, E, ……. X, Y, Z, #, 1,…..9} Words = {YEEEESSS, #QUEEN, #OSCAR19} Rules = {} *Not an official definition 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 5
  6. 6. Emoji Vs Formal Languages  Both consist of Alphabets (Emoji Alphabet would be all emoji pictographs)  Both consist of letters (Each individual emoji would be a letter E.g., – , , )  Both consist of words (Emoji sequences (1 or more) would be words. E.g., – , )  Emoji use has no well-defined rules (grammar)! 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 6
  7. 7. Emoji is NOT a Formal Language! Then, what is it?
  8. 8. Emoji as a Language Element  Show characteristics of pictographic functions (direct representations of objects. E.g., – , )  Show characteristics of logographic functions (word replacement. E.g., – I )  Emoji use in language can be viewed as an amalgamation of pictographic-logographic writing with alphabetic writing (Marcel Danesi) 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 8
  9. 9. Emoji use in Social Media Image Source – https://goo.gl/rjS1hX I Look *Actual social media content 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 9
  10. 10. Background: Semantics: The Study of Meaning
  11. 11. Linguists Vs Philosophers 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 11 CAT Linguists Philosophers Lemma/word/root Signifier (sound pattern/symbol) Signified (concept) Meaning Concept of the Cat (four legs, tail, fur/hair, two years, round face, etc.) It looks like
  12. 12. Lexical Semantics  Examines the relationship between the meaning of the lexical units and the meaning of a sentence as a whole E.g., – Lexical meaning vs Sentence meaning Leads to find words that can substitute each other (a.k.a. Paradigmatic relations) 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 12
  13. 13. Paradigmatic Relations  Synonymy – E.g., – smile and grin  Antonymy – E.g., – happy Vs sad  Homonymy – E.g., – eye and I  Hyponymy – Inclusion of meaning E.g., – Cat is a hyponym of animal (hypernym)  Polysemy – E.g., – Shoot (kill) Vs Shoot (video) 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 13
  14. 14. Emoji Semantics: How Emoji get their Meanings?
  15. 15. What is in an Emoji? 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 15  Unicode code point  Emoji name  Emoji short code  Emoji definition  Set of meanings  Set of pictorial representations (images)  Set of related emoji  Set of categories
  16. 16. Emoji Semantics  What is the smallest meaningful unit of an emoji alphabet?  How emoji meanings are assigned? Initially, by the emoji creators Later, by the users  Emoji are inherently designed with no rigid semantics 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 16
  17. 17. How emoji get their meanings?  Assignment of meanings to emoji symbols can be explained by Semiotic relationships (E.g., – Peirce’s three types of sign relationships) Meanings assigned via logographic functions Paradigmatic relationships – holds between emoji of the same category 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 17
  18. 18. How emoji get their meanings?  Iconic relations (Peirce’s semiotic model) Emoji resembles an object E.g., – Guardsman emoji resembles guards at the Buckingham Place People see things differently, which could lead to different meanings to the same emoji 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 18
  19. 19. How emoji get their meanings?  Symbolic relations (Peirce’s semiotic model) Emoji gets their meanings based on the symbolic relationships that already agreed upon E.g., – Red heart symbolizes love, thus, Red Heart emoji gets that meaning Symbolic relations should be already agreed upon for the interpretation to work 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 19
  20. 20. How emoji get their meanings?  Indexical relations (Peirce’s semiotic model) Emoji gets their meanings because they defines the existence of a concept (i.e., emoji is a natural sign) E.g., – Children crossing emoji gets its “children crossing area/ahead” based on indexical relations 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 20
  21. 21. How emoji get their meanings?  Hyponymy relation (inclusion of meaning) E.g., – Hatching Chick and Baby Chick E.g., – Soft Ice Cream and Ice Cream E.g., – Clock emoji (5.00 PM is an instance of Time, thus 5 O’clock emoji can be used to resent the concept of time) 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 21
  22. 22. How emoji get their meanings?  Similarity in emoji pictorial representations E.g., – Octopus and Squid emoji Sometimes, errors in emoji designs could lead to these types of new meanings 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 22
  23. 23. How emoji get their meanings?  When people replace words using emoji (logographic) Homonymy relations in languages (E.g., – eye & I) 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 23 Image Source – https://goo.gl/rjS1hX I *Actual social media content
  24. 24. How emoji get their meanings?  Differences in platform-specific emoji representations 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 24 Image Source – https://grouplens.org/site-content/uploads/Emoji_Interpretation_Paper.pdf
  25. 25. Finding Platform-specific meanings 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 25  We conducted a crowd-sourced study to find platform-specific meanings of 40 emoji Extracted all emoji meanings from EmojiNet Showed platform-specific emoji pictographs and a meaning, one at a time to the users Users rated whether a given meaning is associated with the platform-specific picture shown to them
  26. 26. Finding Platform-specific meanings 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 26  27/40 emoji had at least one platform-specific emoji meaning (67.5%)  For smiling face with heart-eyes emoji, only Windows platform’s representation was associated with the meaning “smile” Image Source – http://www.unicode.org/emoji/charts/full-emoji-list.html
  27. 27. Social and Cultural Emoji Meanings
  28. 28. Social and Cultural Interpretations 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 28 Gas Vs Marijuana Namaste Vs Pray Vs High-Five English Language Vs American Sign Language
  29. 29. Emoji Chain Gang Usage Non-Gang Usage 32.25% 1.14% 53% 1.71% Emoji Meaning and Social Circles 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 29 Image Source – https://arxiv.org/pdf/1610.09516.pdf
  30. 30. Emoji Meaning and Social Circles 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 30  We looked at the emoji usage of self-identified Twitter users suffering from depression  We analyzed100+ Twitter profiles in a pilot study Users who were suffering from eating disorders tend to use pig-face emoji in their Twitter profile descriptions The use of pig-face emoji could be associated with the weight gain
  31. 31. Emoji Interpretation Across Countries 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 31 Image Source – https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2967278
  32. 32. Accessing Emoji Meanings by Emoji Creators 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 32  Emoji creators submit possible emoji meanings in their proposals  Once accepted, these will be available in Unicode Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR) at https://www.unicode.org/cldr/charts/latest/annotatio ns/other.html
  33. 33. Accessing User Generated Emoji Meanings 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 33  Using a crowd-source emoji meaning dictionary E.g. – Emoji Dictionary – Crowdsourced resource of emoji meanings Image Source – https://emojidictionary.emojifoundation.com/thinking_face
  34. 34. EmojiNet: http://emojinet.knoesis.org 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 34 Image Source – https://arxiv.org/pdf/1707.04652.pdf
  35. 35. EmojiNet: http://emojinet.knoesis.org 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 35 Image Source – http://emojinet.knoesis.org
  36. 36. Emoji Semantics: Similarity 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 36 Image Source – https://arxiv.org/pdf/1707.04652.pdf
  37. 37. Distributional Semantics 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 37  Finds semantic properties of linguistic items (words) based on their distribution in a large corpus Based on Distributional Hypothesis (Harris, 1954) Words that are used and occur in the same contexts tend to purport similar meanings  We use large text corpora with emoji to learn distributional semantics of emoji, which reveals relationships among emoji
  38. 38. Image Source – http://www.henningpohl.net/papers/Pohl2017TOCHI.pdf
  39. 39. Unicodes that Change Emoji Meanings
  40. 40. Not All Emoji are Equal  Some emoji are single Unicode code points  E.g., – , ,  Some emoji are combinations of multiple emoji  E.g., –  Some Unicode characters are used modify emoji and create new ones, which leads to new meanings 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 40 Image Source – https://blog.emojipedia.org/rainbow-flag-emoji-details-published/
  41. 41. Special Unicodes and Emoji  Variation Selectors (1 – 16) – U+FE00 to U+FE0F  Zero Width Joiner character (ZWJ) – U+200D  Regional Indicators – E.g., – U+1F1FA, U+1F1F8  Combining Enclosing Circle Backslash – U+20E0  Combining Enclosing Keycap – U+20E3  Skin tones (Fitzpatrick modifiers)  Hair types (Curly, White, Red, Bold) 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 41
  42. 42. Variation Selectors  Consist of 16 Unicode characters  Used to select a specific glyph variants for a Unicode character E.g., – 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 42 Image Sources – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variation_Selectors_(Unicode_block) https://blog.emojipedia.org/rainbow-flag-emoji-details-published/
  43. 43. Zero Width Joiners (ZWD/Zwidge)  ZWJ is a non-printing character used to combine two or more Unicode code points E.g., –  Backward compatible  No prior approval is required before a vendor introduces a new one 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 43 Image Source – https://blog.emojipedia.org/rainbow-flag-emoji-details-published/
  44. 44. Regional Indicators  Unicode regional indicators are rendered as flags E.g., – USA Flag Emoji (U+1F1FA U+1F1F8) is consist of:  U+1F1FA – Regional Indicator Symbol Letter U  U+1F1F8 – Regional Indicator Symbol Letter S  U+1F1FA U+1F1F8 combination provides US which renders  England, Scotland, and Wales flags use Waving Black Flag emoji + regional indicators 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 44
  45. 45. Combining Enclosing Circle Backslash 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 45  Combining Enclosing Circle Backslash (U+20E0) appears on top of the proceeding character Image Source – https://twitter.com/Emojipedia/status/1097961463690326016
  46. 46. Combining Enclosing Keycap 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 46  Used to create boxed-shape keypad emoji – U+20E3 E.g., – Creation of Keycap: 0 emoji –  U+0030 – Zero text glyph  U+FE0F – Variation Selector 16  U+20E3 – Combining Enclosing Keycap 0 VS 16
  47. 47. Emoji Skin tones (Fitzpatrick modifiers) 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 47  Numerical classification for human skin color to measure the effects of UV rays on human skin Adopted in 2015 to denote emoji skin tones 5 skin tones are used (1st and 2nd Fitzpatrick types are represented by a single Unicode character) Type 1-2 (U+1F3FB) , Type 3 (U+1F3FC) Type 4 (U+1F3FD) , Type 5 (U+1F3FE) Type 6 (U+1F3FF)
  48. 48. Hair Type Modifiers 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 48  Four hair type modifiers are currently supported Red hair – U+1F9B0 Curly hair – U+1F9B1 White hair – U+1F9B3 Bold – U+1F9B2  E.g., – Person with Red Hair – + +  U+1F468 U+200D U+1F9B0 ZWJ
  49. 49. Recap 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 49  Emoji is not a Formal Language  Emoji meanings are assigned by emoji creators and people who use them  Emoji meanings change across cultures and geographies  Certain Unicode characters can be used to create new emoji (thus, adds new meanings)
  50. 50. Acknowledgements 2/28/2019Anthropology 189:001, UC Berkeley 50 Collaborators Prof. Amit Sheth Wright State University Prof. Derek Doran Wright State University Lakshika Balasuriya (Gracenote Inc.) Funding
  51. 51. Thank You! Any Questions? SANJAYA@KNOESIS.ORG | HTTP://KNOESIS.ORG/PEOPLE/SANJAYAW/ | @SANJROCKZ

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