motipros: emotional symbology for texting


Motipros can be used in texting or chatting to express emotion or extra levels of meaning. The shapes of motipros were determined through user surveys, facial expression research, and user-generated illustrative suggestions. Texting has become a communicative norm, but there is no tone of voice or body language in texting. Using punctuation or pictures is helpful, but limited. Motipros are my response to the lack of emotion or tone in texting - and the limited palate available for typed expression.

Users: Anyone who texts, chats online, or has conversations by means of typing with letters and symbols.

Research & Process: Texting has become one of our primary methods of communication. In a short time, we have replaced many face-to-face interactions with computer-moderated interactions that involve visible typed words only. When vocal and nonverbal cues are omitted from conversation, misunderstandings are much more likely to occur. When we text only, we are losing 93% of the information that we would normally receive from a normal face-to-face interaction.

Punctuation, numbers, and letters were originally created for various uses, but not for the scenario that is posed by the new texting culture, which replaces everyday conversation. Punctuation is the primary element of writing that has always helped to convey meaning.

Recently, because we don’t have a sufficient form of punctuation to convey the conversational detail we now need in our writing, we have begun to create codes out of existing letters and punctuation symbols to fill the gap. These codes, commonly referred to as emoticons, help us to approximate nonverbal cues when we are texting or communicating via social networks online. These hacked letters, numbers, and punctuation marks evolved naturally to replace vocal and nonverbal cues and to limit potential misunderstandings.

After observing this difference between expressive code use in men and women, I asked some of the men around me how much they used emoticons or expressive punctuation in their text messages. Most men I talked to said they rarely or never used emoticons. They also expressed that they would be more open to using a neutral punctuation-style code to clarify meaning via text.

According to studies, women use emoticons twice as much as men on average, which supports what I found in my personal research via my own texting logs. To further the gender issue present in texting culture, on dating websites, it was found that men who used a smiley face :) in their messages to women were 60% less likely to hear back from the woman. On the other hand, women who used smiley faces in their messages to men were 60% more likely to hear back.

In order to level the playing field and to add more specific symbology to the texting conversation, I created a set of symbols. This is an initial prototype that will be further developed over time, as it has not yet been extensively tested and will need many alterations. Below are the basic symbols that resulted from this project , along with their meanings.

Click on the image below for an expanded view: