Interpretation of emojis in organisational Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) contexts

Du Plessis, Talita (2020-03)

Thesis (MCom)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.


ENGLISH SUMMARY : Globally, due to the impending impact of technology and globalisation, a rapid change is evident within the organisational workforce as organisations are more readily relying on Computer-Mediated Communication as a means of communicating. Alongside the increase in the use of Computer-Mediated Communication, a decrease in the expression of non-verbal cues has also been evident. Accordingly, employees have begun to, not only in informal (interpersonal) communication but also in formal (organisational) communication, make use of, emojis. Introduced to the global market in 2011 and deemed the communication language of the future, emoji usage has rapidly increased in recent years, with more than 5 billion emojis being used daily on Facebook and there are 3178 emojis available to date. Regardless of the rapid increase in usage, studies have indicated that emoji interpretation differences are present for various variables, including mobile platforms. Due to the upsurge of emoji usage in organisational communication and the pivotal role which effective organisational communication has, the need to identify organisational variables that could contribute to interpretation differences within organisational communication is of utmost importance. Subsequently, the objectives of the study included determining whether emoji interpretation differences occurred across platforms, age groups, genders, racial groups, industries of work as well as hierarchy levels. The research design included an exploratory research design with the target population including a random sample of employees from diverse backgrounds (age, gender, race, industry of work and hierarchy level) employed at a wide variety of organisations. The sample size included 362 respondents (n=362) and a survey research methodology was used. An electronic survey, developed on Qualtrics, was distributed to participants primarily by means of an anonymous survey link on which participants had to complete demographic information, additional information questions as well as indicate their interpretation of a set of 16 randomly assigned emojis in terms of semantics and sentiment. The study found, that not only are emoji interpretation differences evident, but emoji interpretation differences occurred for each of the variables examined. Hence, emoji interpretation differences occurred across platforms, age groups, genders, racial groups, industries of work as well as hierarchy levels. Based on the findings, seeing as interpretation differences could potentially have an adverse impact on communication, resulting in misinterpretation and ultimately, miscommunication, practical recommendations were made. The recommendations outlined effective organisational practices to be implemented in an attempt to address dissimilar emoji interpretations and the appropriate usage thereof within organisational communication.

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