How might we add value to a story by making audience engagement easy, visual, and compelling?

We are entering the emoji age. Emoji are the ultimate modern picture stories.

Comments are often damaging rather than constructive. And sometimes you can say it better with an emoji. They’re fun and delightful — and have evolved into a legitimate visual language. There's an opportunity to lower the barrier for audience engagement, and create a safe experience for capturing and exposing even anonymous responses.

The Concept: Emoji Annotation in Context

Inspired by Medium’s commenting structure and using sidecomment.js, we’ve mocked up how emoji annotations might work on a story page. We’ve also considered how the overall reaction to a story, measured in the most prevalent pictorial annotation, might be reflected as a barometer on something like a site homepage. Or work like tagging to give the site content a sortable emoji-based taxonomy.

Respond in context! Who has time to write acutal words any more. Share an emotion or respond with a narrative combo.

Emoji Interaction Demo

We could also offer a way to respond at the article level, and expose common user responses in the form of single emoji:

Stepping Back & Extracting Value

With emoji attached to articles and to units of content across the site, what value is there for the publisher? What experiences can we create for the user? We could create a ticker, modify the design, aggregate content.

Today's most common emoji, according to emojinius annotation activity:

Navigating the site via emoji, similar to aggregate tag pages:

Clickable cross-site experience

What even does any language even mean ever???

Emoji don't necessarily map directly to emotions. Or tags. They could be references, or inside jokes, or callbacks, or props, compound expressions or mini comic narratives.

Some of the members of our team use this emoji to express anxiety or frustration. Others use it to express a sort of pride, a strong smile.

So what is safe to assume about intention?

Consider: narrative combo emoji comments vs raw dump of many single emoji:

Next Steps and Further Study

With so many interesting open questions about language, meaning, audience context and intention, this is the sort of thing that wants to be put into the hands of real readers and experimented with. There's JS library or a Chrome plugin in here somewhere.

In ten years, will the semantic meaning and contextual usage of emoji be more consistent across cultures and contexts? There may come a point where emoji sequences can be processed like natural language, or where signals and norms for intention (expressive usages vs. emotional punctuation usage vs. narrative storytelling) are more common and clear. This is not just the stuff of text messaging anymore.

The children of the future will think in emoji.

Our Team

This was a great collaboration. Thanks!

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