Creating Technology for Social Change

Emoji Karaoke at the Boston Internet Research Party

Two weeks ago, Kate Miltner, Amy Johnson and I organized the first Boston Internet Researchers Party, hosted by the Center for Civic Media, Microsoft Research, and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Over 80 researchers, from students to faculty, spent two hours sharing their favorite Internet videos and playing Emoji Karaoke. Partiers joined us from UC Irvine, University of Hawai, UW-Madison, Wellesley, Northeastern, RPI, the Berkman Center, Microsoft, MIT (you can see the list of attendees on Eventbrite).

YouTube Party

What are your favorite Internet videos? The Berkman and Civic Media communities crowdsourced a fantastic playlist: see and extend our list of favorite Internet videos on this Etherpad.

Emoji Karaoke

Kate facilitated a round of Emoji Karaoke, a game where contestants create emoji versions of famous pop songs. Kate tried it out first at re:publica and wanted to share it with the Boston crowd before moving to USC Annenberg this fall, inspired by this awesome Katy Perry music video:

How to Play Emoji Karaoke

In Kate’s rules for the game, contestants listen to a soundtrack or music video and send in emoji that describe lyrics. In the easy version, you’re allowed to use words. In more advanced levels, only emoji are allowed. After a time limit, contestants text in their final emoji lyrics, which are judged on accuracy, creativity, multi-layeredness, and (of course!) social critique. Here’s Kate’s example:

Rising Up To the Challenge of our Rivals

Our warmup round started off light, with this classic by Survivor.

Put Your Hands Up!

This entry won extra points for social critique

History: Quickly Crashing Through Your Veins

Sometimes the expression of complex ideas requires figurative liberties. The judges also appreciated the variation and progression in the symbols used to express the idea of the growing rainstorm:

We Know the Game and We’re Gonna Play It

This entry won extra points from the judges for its use of phonetic spelling.Let’s hope the Internet never sees the video of Kate, Amy, Mary Gray, and I recreating Rick Astley’s dance style. In other news, the original Rickrolling video has been REMOVED FROM YOUTUBE due to a DMCA takedown. The Internet reacted, and it’s now back up.


After a great first party, we’re excited to hold more Boston-wide gatherings of Internet Researchers. If you or your department are interested in participating, send me an email at