I can type some odd punctuation online and the Web sees and then the reader tries to apply some meaning and interpretation to those icons.
These emotion icons, now known by the portmanteau emoticon is meant to be a metacommunicative pictorial representation of a facial expression. They became part of writing on the Web in emails, on web pages and in text messages and social media posts. They rose from a need created by the absence of body language and prosody in this non-verbal communication.
The emoticon is meant to give the receiver soem clue to the tenor, tone or temper of a sender's message.
Through the use of a few punctuation marks, numbers and letters, we hope to communicate feelings or mood. With the rise and current dominance of mobile computing, devices now provide stylized pictures that require no typing of odd punctuation to generate an image. You can simply select an angry cat, crying face, champagne toast, pile of excrement or character from a movie.
Western emoticons are usually written at a right angle to the direction of the text, but users from Japan popularized a kind of emoticon called kaomojis (???. The word emoji literally means "picture" (e) + "character" (moji) but that term has a somewhat different use in the West. In either place, they can be understood without tilting your head to the left. The growth of digitally-mediated communicative tools (DMC) has been rapid and pervasive. Most tech-savvy users are comfortable using these on a daily basis. This is certainly more true among younger generations where DMC may actually be the preferred means of communication. Still, how do these users clarify their meaning, intent, and desires?
It's a topic that gets serious study. This blogger at scientificamerican.com says the emoticon and emojis role in "Democratizing Communication" might be that:
"... emoticons reinforces the need for a personal element in DMC. The nuances that emoticons add need to mean something to the audience—which is why a standard set of emoticons is not sufficient, even while the standard of using emoticons becomes widespread. The cultural development of emoticons also emphasizes how important emoticons have become to digitally-mediated communication and maintaining our social networks. The fact that we see cultural variations in emoticons reveals that emoticons are being used to connect people—to help people understand each other through methods that limit shared information inherent to social biofeedback.
As we increasingly transact our lives online, and find ways to effectively communicate online, what we are able to share becomes important in shaping our world overall. Researchers propose “the creation and distribution of digital goods has been democratized.”12 The creation and growth of social networking has allowed for easy sharing of creative and intellectual property. To which I will add, that these efforts have been assisted by DMC tools, such as emoticons, which allow shared ideas to be understood—not just in terms of content, but in terms of the author’s meaning as well."
And to that, we might reply:
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