That Emoji You’re Sending Is Open to Interpretation

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A new study finds that emoji, the tiny graphic images increasingly used in text communications, can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that, due to differences in graphic design, certain characters could convey a slightly negative emotion when rendered on one mobile phone platform but a slightly positive emotion when viewed on another platform. And the problem is not just a matter of translating from Apple-ese to Android-ese. Even within one phone system, different users could interpret a single character in a range of ways. Study author Hannah Miller and Internet language expert Gretchen McCulloch discuss the challenges of changing communications in the online world, and what might be done to prevent emotional content from being lost in translation.

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Credit: Grouplens research group, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Segment Guests
Hannah Miller is a PhD Student in the Computer Science and Engineering department at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Gretchen McCulloch is a linguist and writer. She gave a presentation on linguistics and emoji at the 2016 SXSW conference. She’s based in Montreal, Canada.

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