280MAPA research diary #5

Postdigital emotions

According to the dictionary, emotions are ‘strong feelings, deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.’ Most of the time we associate them with living individuals, therefore, it is hard to imagine them being digital/postdigital in any shape or form. However, with the constantly developing technology and devices, we learned how to digitalize our emotions without even realising.

In 2015, a laughing-crying emoji was chosen by the Oxford Dictionary to be the word of the year (Steinmetz 2015). This shows how we learned to transfer our feelings to a digital space, where they get converted to a digital smiley face which we use to represent ourselves online. Caspar Grathwohl, the president of Oxford Dictionaries simply explains that “Emojis are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders” which leads to the idea that we can express ourselves with emojis as well or even better than writing “old-fashioned” words.

Digital space and social media are feeling-driven, because people use those platforms just because they want to charge themselves with good emotions or boost self esteem. You feel better about yourself when someone likes your picture or leaves a lovely comment. It gives the tingly feeling in your stomach because you know you are relevant, appreciated and noticed. Though there is a lot of selfishness behind it. I think it really links to what an American media critic Herbert Schiller once wrote: “If present trends continue, all human interactions will be on a pay-for basis. This denies the social nature of human existence and elevates self and selfishness as the primary motivators of people. In such an order, common, or national endeavours have little chance of acceptance, and agreeable human associations disappear” (Curran and Morley 2006). The reason why we interact with other people’s content on the internet is because we want them to do the same for us. It all goes in a cycle.

As, philosopher Alphonse Lingis said, emotions are dangerous. Mostly because they make things way more complicated as most of the times they are unpredictable We can spot a couple examples in a TV series Black Mirror episode, called “Fifteen Million Merits”. In one of the most shocking scenes where Abi is auditioning for the talent show as a singer, she is caught off guard and offered to be a porn star. The pressure from the judges and the audience makes her feel tricked, emotional and lost. Abi ends up accepting the offer, because she thinks that’s what she’s supposed to do and she has to obey the rules. We could link that to emotional labour which “refers to the process by which workers are expected to manage their feelings in accordance with organizationally defined rules and guidelines” (Wharton 2009). People’s lives in the episode are like jobs because they have to live by certain regulations, obey the rules, thus Abi feels like she’s expected to regulate her emotions and adapt to the situation, which may mean going against her morals.

Overall, I think it’s important to emphasise how our way of portraying emotions has changed. It is impacted not only by human interaction but also by the environment in digital space and it will only continue to evolve.



*** Curran, J. and Morley, D. (2006) Media And Cultural Theory. London [u.a.]: Routledge

*** Emotion | Definition Of Emotion In English By Oxford Dictionaries (n.d.) available from <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/emotion&gt; [13 April 2018]

*** Lingis, A. (2000) Dangerous Emotions. Berkeley: University of California Press

*** Steinmetz, K. (2015) Oxford’s 2015 Word Of The Year Is This Emoji [online] available from <http://time.com/4114886/oxford-word-of-the-year-2015-emoji/&gt; [18 April 2018]

*** Wharton, A. (2009) “The Sociology Of Emotional Labor”. Annual Review Of Sociology 35 (1), 147-165


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