Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Art and Design

First Advisor

Paul Bruski


Modern communication technology such as mobile phone and the Internet have made long-distance text-based communication very convenient. As a result, more and more people choose to send text messages via SMS or instant message software (e.g., WhatsApp) as a major approach to communicate with each other. However, due to the limitations of written language, text-based communication usually cannot accurately express the emotions and feelings of the message sender. Symbolic facial expressions, such as emoji and emoticons, were invented to overcome this shortcoming of text-based communication. By inserting symbols in a text message, the sender has an ability to express his emotions and feelings represented by facial expressions. In this thesis, I study the usage of symbolic facial expressions in text-based communications and it's impact on people's communication behaviors.

1. Is the use of Emoji partially too culturally specific?

2. Can symbolic facial expression be used by themselves? If so, in what situations?

3. During SMS conversation, how many facial expressions are excessive? Will excessive

symbolic facial expression impede SMS communication?

4. What factors influence the behavior of emoji usage in a SMS sender?

These questions explore different aspects of the usage of facial expressions/emoji in text communication including culture differences, usage of emoji compared to text, the definition of excessive usage of emoji, and the interpretation of these symbols in general. In order to find

answers to the above research questions, I conducted a survey among approximately 1000 students and faculty members in Iowa State University. I have calculated the statistical data of the survey answers, and drew my conclusion based on the analysis of these results.


Copyright Owner

Xi Zhu



File Format


File Size

126 pages

Included in

Fine Arts Commons