Culturally-embedded visual literacy: A study of impression management via emoticon, emoji, sticker, and meme on social media in China

Yuan Wang, Yukun Li, Xinning Gui, Yubo Kou, Fenglian Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial


Social media is often analyzed as a “front stage” where social media users perform their identities and manage impressions through various forms of user-generated content: text, picture, video, as well as visual expression such as emoticon, emoji, sticker, and meme. Previous scholarship has suggested various functions of visual expression in supporting computer-mediated communication. In this study, we move beyond the utility perspective to ask what constitutes the literacy to utilize visual expression for impression management. Towards this goal, we conducted an interview study with 30 social media users in China. We found that visual literacy intersects with its cultural context. Our interviewees used text and visual expressions in sophisticated, skillful ways and tailored for different audiences in order to construct desired images. They also interacted with audience memory in order to perform their uniqueness and creativity. Lastly, we discuss culturally-embedded visual literacy and provide implications for design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number68
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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