Repurposing Emoji for Personalised Communication: Why pizza slice emoji means “I love you”

Wiseman, Sarah and Gould, Sandy J.J.. 2018. 'Repurposing Emoji for Personalised Communication: Why pizza slice emoji means “I love you”'. In: CHI '18: CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Montreal, Quebec, Canada 21 - 26 April 2018. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

The use of emoji in digital communication can convey a wealth of emotions and concepts that otherwise would take many words to express. Emoji have become a popular form of communication, with researchers claiming emoji represent a type of “ubiquitous language” that can span different languages. In this paper however, we explore how emoji are also used in highly personalised and purposefully secretive ways. We show that emoji are repurposed for something other than their “intended” use between close partners, family members and friends. We present the range of reasons why certain emoji get chosen, including the concept of “emoji affordance” and explore why repurposing occurs. Normally used for speed, some emoji are instead used to convey intimate and personal sentiments that, for many reasons, their users cannot express in words. We discuss how this form of repurposing must be considered in tasks such as emoji-based sentiment analysis.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Identification Number (DOI):


Emoji, Computer Mediated Communication, Personalisation, Digital Intimacy

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



11 December 2017Accepted
21 April 2018Published

Event Location:

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Date range:

21 - 26 April 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

30 Jan 2018 09:53

Last Modified:

16 Oct 2020 14:31


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