Emoticon in a view of phenomenology

I’d like to give an example for the last class stuff. During last class I came across one thing; it is about EMOTICON. Emoticon is usually using for instant messaging or email infinitely. As well as some service providers offer a service that converts emoticon expressions into graphic images. In addition, on word-processing program, Ms word provides this service: if I enter “:-)”, it is replaced with ☺.

In the case of instant messaging, a sender inputs a message like “Thank you:-)“ and sends it as a meaning for appreciation and smile emotional expression. The message is delivered to an intended recipient who knows that meaning and could get it. I think that the genre for this is a type to exchange emotion through a combination of symbols and characters as a sort of language. The code of this is that the shape of the combination of symbols looks like a real image or an expression of face. Therefore, I think this phenomenon that the composition of symbols become as a language in computer usage is one of the results, which are reflected in aspect of phenomenology.

I also realized an interesting thing that emoticons are different in every culture area. In the western culture, emoticons lie on their side and express emotion with a shape of the mouth.

“-)” or “:) ” Smile or Happy
“:-(” or “:(” Frown or Sad
“;-)” or “;)” Winking
“:-D” or “:D” Open-mouthed smile – a grin, often denoting laughter
“:-C” or “:C ” Very, very sad
“D-:” or “D:” Annoyed, mad, shocked or scared.
“:-p” or “:p” or “:P “or “:-Þ” Smile with tongue out – used to denote either a “raspberry” or being ‘tongue in cheek’ in English
“:-S” or “:S” Being confused
“:-/” or “:/” or “:-\” or “:\ ” Doubtful or slightly confused expression
“:-|” or “:|” Blank expression
“:O” Suprised or shocked

In the eastern culture, emoticons express emotion by a shape of eyes.

(^_^) (^^) (^-^) (^o^) Smile or Happy
(*_*) Surprised or shocked
(;_;) (T_T) Sad or cry
(@_@) Doubtful or slightly confused expression
(-_-) Blank expression

This following video, Emoticoncert,  shows a slice of culture of emoticon usage 😀


  1. Jungyoun Yim

    Sorry for Sunday posting T_T

  2. Tyler Pace

    I was with a friend in Tokyo when he bought a new phone and I took the chance to do a little interaction design dissection (menus were in English). I was absolutely dumbfounded by the number and expressive quality of the emoticons. The phone was preloaded with literally hundreds of emoticons of varying complexity that borrowed characters from almost every Earthly language.

  3. yenning

    I am also interested in this. I conducted a small survey among my friends before and found that lots of people hate emotions in instant messaging when they appear much more frequently than Earthly language. There is even a tool and function designed to block the emotions. But some people are still addicted to using emotions. Maybe someday I can list all my friends who are crazy about using emotions and see if they have similar lifeworld. 😀

  4. jeffreybardzell

    First of all, outstanding post. I love your insight about Eastern versus Western uses of emoticons, and I super-duper-extra love the video you posted!

    I am curious why you were thinking of this in terms of phenomenology. I am not saying that you are wrong to do so (certainly that’s a reasonable way to look at this), but you talk about the emoticons as a language or a sign system, which would seem superficially at least to be a semiotic approach. Regardless, this is a great post!


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