Edited by Eva Ogiermann
[Pragmatics and Society 14:2] 2023
► pp. 358–381
In this article, we identify a new form of public discourse that takes the shape of WhatsApp sticker memes personally created and nationally shared on WhatsApp by citizens in Oman during the Covid-19 pandemic to concomitantly act as carriers of information and as promoters of relational work. The data consist of 67 public sign stickers culled from a larger set amassed as part of an ethnographic project on Arabs and Covid-19. Drawing upon interpersonal pragmatics and visual semiotics, we examine the interplay of textual and visual modes in featured stickers, demonstrating how Omanis translated official Covid-19 instructions into three types of terse memes to facilitate communal distribution. We suggest that to encourage public cooperation, the stickers struck a culturally-imperative balance between keeping traditional norms intact while committing socially offensive acts. The article contributes to research on digital discourse by exploring sticker use as public signs in the understudied Arabic context.