LINGUIST List 32.2943

Thu Sep 16 2021

Calls: Discourse Analysis/Belgium

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 15-Sep-2021
From: Najma Al Zidjaly <>
Subject: Panel: The Secret Lives of Emojis, Stickers, Memes and Gifs: Inside and Beyond the Binaries of Context, Culture and Playfulness
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Full Title: Panel: The Secret Lives of Emojis, Stickers, Memes and Gifs: Inside and Beyond the Binaries of Context, Culture and Playfulness

Date: 13-Jul-2022 - 16-Jul-2022
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Contact Person: Najma Al Zidjaly
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

Call Deadline: 19-Sep-2021

Meeting Description:

In everyday interactions across cultures, we are frequently faced with binary constructions through which to communicate. Political and gender binaries, for example, play a profound role in both the production and interpretation of discourse in multiple countries and languages. This is true at all levels of language, from grammatically-encoded binary gender to socially-constructed political/social membership. In many cases, images allow users to indicate alignment or resist these imposed binary structures. Multimodal resources such as memes, emojis, gifs and stickers (MEGS) are frequently used to break free of these binary constraints.

Since the advent of digital interaction, images have been used for a variety of purposes: to support ludic play, to simplify and streamline messages, and to clarify speaker intent, among others, While initially they served as keyboard-based simplistic renditions, modern technology offers a plethora of both still and animated images to serve these purposes. This panel critically explores and uncovers the complexity of image-based digital resources on digital platforms from across the globe as they interact within and around socially and culturally embedded binary structures.

While there has been a notable surge in recent research on the phatic roles MEGS play (e.g. Giannoulis and Wilde 2021), there remains questions of how and why visual image-based media perform relational work and construct interpersonal connection. Most importantly, research has noted the existence of much more complexity beneath the veneer of playfulness often ascribed to non-verbal communicative digital tools, and it is the goal of this panel to continue to expand our understanding of these complex multimodal forms.

Here, we will critically examine the (sometimes clandestine) functions memes, emojis, gifs and stickers construct, including (but not limited to): signaling dissent (Al Zidjaly 2017, Denisova 2018), creating gendered roles (Graham 2019) subverting authority (Zhang et al 2019), acting as public signs (Al Zidjaly and Al Barhi 2022), mapping cultures (Abdullah 2021, Dynel and Thomas 2020), responding to daily actions (Ahmadi et al. 2020), communicating about Covid-19 (Anapol 2020, Dynel 2020), and many more.

Expanding the analytical and methodological lens through which MEGS have been examined, we can further explore the agency and creativity of social media users in subverting social realities and imposed binary structures (especially in cultures with limited freedom of expression).

The panel advocates research into a variety of non-interpersonal or non-emotional forms and functions of non-verbal communicative tools (e.g. memes, emoji, gifs and stickers) across the globe (with a focus on underexamined contexts and cultures, including the Middle East, Asia and Africa). Thus, this panel is interested in the multimodal practices of digital media users, exploring how individuals use image-based digital resources (e.g. emojis, GIFs, memes, stickers, etc.) both as a stand-alone resource and as a supplement to text as a way to challenge the binaries encoded in digital interaction. In this way, we can gain a greater understanding of imposed cultural and social expectations on multiple platforms, including but not limited to WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, WeChat, etc.

Call for Papers:

We invite research on the complex usage of image-based digital resources, including memes, emojis, gifs and WhatsApp stickers on different digital platforms from across the globe, with a highlight on functions they perform which go beyond the playful facilitation of communication.

If you would like to participate in the panel (with a 20 minute paper presentation), please send an email immediately with an idea, your name, contact details and affiliation to both organizers: Sage Graham ( and Najma Al Zidjaly (

Don't hesitate to contact us at the above email addresses if you have further
questions. We are looking forward to your contributions!

This is an Invited Panel at Sociolinguistics Symposium 24 (13-16 July 2022).

Page Updated: 16-Sep-2021