Hand Signs for Lipsyncing:

the Emergence of a Gestural Language on Musical.ly

Jill Walker Rettberg, University of Bergen

Writing in social media often includes emoticons, emoji and stickers. In this paper, I show how this tendency to supplement words with pictograms is not limited to writing, but is also evident in video- and image-based communication. Selfies sent on Snapchat or other image- and video-sharing apps frequently include not only writing, but also emoji and doodles. The main focus of this paper, however, is lipsyncing videos on musical.ly, a video-sharing app popular among tweens and young teenagers, where users have developed a system of hand and camera movements to augment and interpret the lyrics they mime. Recognising this emergent gestural language and understanding its meaning for its users and its relationship to other forms of multimodal communication in digital media, allows us to see emoji and other forms of visual supplement to writing as part of a larger emerging system of communication where visual signs are becoming integrated into verbal language, both in writing and speech.

Read Jill’s full article here.