Proceedings of The 6th International Conference on New Approaches in Education
Digitally Mediated Communication of Emojis by Visually Impaired Users: The Case of Sarcasm WhatsApp Messages
Radwa Atef Helmy Elshemy
While spoken interactions benefit from a range of nonverbal cues (such as gestures, body language, tone, intonation, and facial expressions) that speakers use to communicate their attitudes or emotions as they speak, these cues are absent in digitally mediated communication. In today’s digital age, emojis have come to compensate for this and hence became an essential element of online communication; they carry iconic information and aid comprehension. In the realm of WhatsApp where written conversations with an immediacy level close to that of spoken are supported, an ironic or sarcastic message is likely to be misunderstood, as it involves decrypting a meaning that often contradicts what is said. The functions of emojis could facilitate the correct interpretation of a message. However, the phenomenon of emojis may not be ideal for visually impaired WhatsApp users. Distinguishing sarcasm from the sincerity tone of a message requires distinct semantic and cognitive processes. This study looks at emojis that visually impaired user (VIU) may employ in digital contexts. In specific, focusing on Saudi WhatsApp users, the aim is to uncover how VIU use emojis on WhatsApp to clarify sarcastic versus literal intent. To meet this aim, the researchers conducted two experimental tasks. Results provided clear evidence that emojis necessary tools for VIU in online communication. However, their use varies with emojis linked more to literal WhatsApp messages than sarcastic ones and in praise situations than in criticism. These findings highlight the significant role emojis play in clarifying message intention, compensating for the absence of nonverbal cues in written communication.
keywords: emojis, visually impaired users, cross-cultural communication, sarcasm, WhatsApp, Digitally Mediated Communication