English Research Paper

Customizations and Expression Breakdowns in Ecosystems of Communication Apps

Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction |


The growing adoption of emojis, stickers and GIFs suggests a corresponding demand for rich, personalized expression in messaging apps. Some people customize apps to enable more personal forms of expression, yet we know little about how such customizations shape everyday communication. Since people increasingly communicate via multiple apps side-by-side, we are also interested in how customizing one app influences communication via other apps. We created a taxonomy of customization options based on interviews with 15 “extreme users” of communication apps. We found that participants tailored their apps to express their identities, organizational culture, and intimate bonds with others. They also experienced expression breakdowns: frustrations around barriers to transferring personal forms of expression across apps, which inspired inventive workarounds to maintain cross-app habits of expression, such as briefly switching apps to generate and export content for a particular conversation. We conclude with implications for personalized expression in ecosystems of communication apps.