A wink and a nod: The role of emojis in forming digital communities


As digital interactions become more global, individuals who bring divergent practices 'to the keyboard' must interact with other participants who come to the digital space with different cultural norms and expectations. This study explores the interface between local expectations and global practice through emoji use in online gaming-a venue which brings people from around the globe together on a common 'playing field'. Since emojis were originally designed to tap into universals in human experience and expression, they are a ready-made resource through which individuals can integrate their culture-based expectations with communicative norms that are rooted in the common denominators of the (global) digital environment. Using live chat data from the game streaming platform Twitch, this study examines emojis posted to the open chat room during game streams of one female and one male gamer. The analysis examines the ways that participants use these semiotic images to orient toward gaming communities of practice and claim identities within gaming groups. It also explores whether emoji use is affected by the gender of the streamer. Analysis indicates that participants in the man's stream differ from participants woman's stream in the ways they use emojis to claim community membership and employ emojis as phatic devices.

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