Hello there and welcome to my GIF blog! It is dedicated to everyone who is researching about GIFs in general, their history, cultural impact and a media studies perspective on them. Currently, the blog is on hiatus and I don’t know when there’ll be new articles. But, of course, feel free to scroll through the archive:

  • The Library (a collection of resources for your own GIF research)
  • Articles about my own GIF research in English and German
  • The monthly link collections with GIF news and stuff (yes, January 2017 was the most recent one…)

There still are some half-finished articles in preparation, but I can’t promise if and when I’ll release them, so please consider this blog a rather static site now:)


fyi [links, jan 2017]

Some more or less recent stuff, focussed on GIFs. Or other web animations. Or something else loosely connected to that.

It has become quiet around here and I apologise for that. But during the last weeks we really didn’t have many GIF news, so this time there is only a short link list:

As announced on this blog, there was a GIF conference in Bologna in the end of November. You can find video recordings of some of the presentations on this site. I hope to find the time to write reviews for some talks that are not available as recordings.

Peeqo is a personal desktop robotic assistant who expresses himself through GIFs.“ There is also a gallery that documents the engineering process. [Thanks to Timo for the link]

The Democratic Party Needs to Stop Using Reaction Gifs“ – A short comment that focusses on meme use by the US democrats, but can actually be seen as a more general advice for any large institution or company: Garnishing their posts on social media with GIFs isn’t necessarily a good idea, just because it’s trendy or all the other users are doing it.

This paper introduces a novel approach for generating GIFs called Synchronized Deep Recurrent Attentive Writer (Sync-DRAW).“

GIF library updated

The GIF library on this blog is up to date again. Besides adding several research papers and links, I reorganised the list of articles a bit. Academic papers are now organised in sub-categories:

  • GIFs and Film Studies / Pre-Cinéma
  • Emotions and self expression in GIFs
  • GIF users behaviour / appropriation / Memes
  • Technical Aspects / Hacking GIF files
  • Other Research Papers


fyi [links, nov 2016]

Some more or less recent stuff, focussed on GIFs. Or other web animations. Or something else loosely connected to that.

There will be a conference about “The New Imageries of GIF Culture”, 24 – 25 November 2016 in Bologna. I know this is on very short notice, but I also just read about it a week or so ago. Luckily, the organisers will provide live streaming of the presentations. If you can’t get enough of GIF research, check out their bibliography.

GIFilter“ is a university project that analysed the main GIF design paradigms and presents the outcome with a poster series.

As neural networks lately are applied to, well, everything, it was only a matter of time until someone develops a GIF search engine on the basis of deep learning and here it is: DeepGIF.

Tom Moody comments on a GIF animation history article and points out a crucial point about Giphy that I can very much relate to:
”Once GIFs have a reliable central location where they can be created, stored, and tweaked, people will stop saving them to their individual devices. Then, the GIF as a free-floating entity will finally shrivel up and die — there will only be Giphy.“

Vine is shutting down. Here we see what could happen to any proprietary piece of software – no matter how popular or important for web culture, it can be discontinued at any time. GIFs however, are not bound to a certain service (yet – despite all the effort Giphy is putting into its GIF domination;) so their fortune mainly depends on the users themselves.

And finally here are three academic papers about GIFs, the latter two of which I haven’t had the time to read entirely yet. But I’m sure that you are able to comprehend them yourselves:)

Gürsimsek, Ödül Akyapi (2016): ”Animated GIFs as vernacular graphic design: producing Tumblr blogs
The author focusses on GIFs related to the series ”Lost“ and how they are appropriated by Tumblr users. She draws some interesting conclusions, including a handy definition of GIF literacy: “GIF literacy is the ability to remediate televisual performance into social cues to be used in vernacular digital communication. This is coupled with the literacy of using image editing software.” (p.347)

Chiarini, Alessandra (2016): ”The Multiplicity of the Loop: The Dialectics of Stillness and Movement in the Cinemagraph

Gygli, Michael; Soleymani, Mohammad (2016): ”Analyzing and Predicting GIF Interestingness

It’s like a GIF, but with audio – Some thoughts on a changing definition of GIFs

The podcast and radio program „This American Life“ introduced a feature to select and share short clips from their shows. This creates a combination of the selected audio and a text animation of the corresponding transcript excerpt in a video file.

This would be interesting enough in itself, when you take into account how desperately radio stations think about how to form their content into handy portions that are easy to share and hopefully go viral. But in the end, this is still a blog about GIFs that you are reading now. So, what’s this all about?

Actually, it is just a tiny observation, but it made me think. The announcement of the new feature includes one rather odd sentence (the first part of the quote is just for context):

[…]turn your favorite podcast moments into videos that you can post to social media. It’s kind of like making a gif, but for audio. [thisamericanlife.org]

Yes. Yes, videos are somehow like GIFs, but with audio. But of course this promising perception has another layer of meaning. The term GIF is not limited to .gif-files any more. For a longer time now we can observe a shift from this technical definition to a broader cultural understanding of what GIFs are. I have linked to several articles about that in the past and written about it myself. „GIF“ has become a generic term for any short piece of moving image that is shared on the web, that may or may not include audio. Since the rise of WebM, GIFV and the like, the file format itself is less and less relevant, as users rather care for the animated content.

Back to the Podcast-GIF-thingy. This American Life uses the word „GIF“ in its broader understanding to describe a new product. But they mention it only by the way. Wired, however, decided to report about that with the headline „This American Life Is Making Podcasts as Shareable as GIFs

Okay, let’s not get too excited here. It is only a metaphor and of course GIFs are „shareable“, duh! Well, have a look back to, lets say, 2012. GIFs just became quiet popular again and seemed to be all over the place. But the were not that shareable. It just happened during the last years that social media sites and apps included GIF support, leading to the current situation where GIFs are even more all over the place than a few years before.

What I want to illustrate with all this is: Our understanding of GIFs is developing constantly. And as an observer of GIF culture I want to point out remarkable instances and turning points of this development. The case we just inspected is a very demonstrative example of a progress that already is in effect for some time and will continue even further. Have a look at designated GIF-sections on Reddit or 4chan, where WebMs are shared because they include audio, albeit being a different file format. Or at GIF-Art, where a very broad definition of GIFs may apply, as stated in this article I recently mentioned in the last link list.

From the current point of view it seems that the usual definition of GIFs nowadays is merely linked to the file format, but to its appearance and appropriation. This might seem obvious now, but in the 90s the technical aspects have been far more important, especially in contrast to PNG.

fyi [links, oct 2016]

Some more or less recent stuff, focussed on GIFs. Or other web animations. Or something else loosely connected to that.

Only a few days are left to take part in the Digital Public Library of America’s „GIF it up“ competition! Everyone can take part and create animations based upon archive material that is under public domain oder Creative Commons license.

Explore some GIF culture history with the GeoCities GIF search engine, made by the Internet Archive.

Wired reflects about how the definition of GIFs changes/broadens, especially in the field of art.

Have you read one of the many articles stating that using GIFs on Tinder increases your chances there? I haven’t linked to them yet, because I tried to find the source of this news bit and I assumed that there might be an article or any other documentation of a study that has been conducted by Tinder itself. Sadly, that’s not the case. The whole thing seems to be based on an interview via email between engadget.com and Tinder’s own sociologist Jess Carbino. Here you can find the corresponding article from where everyone else got the information.

This article inspects the source of a well-known dumpster fire, often used in GIF form. It is always nice to read/hear/watch the background story of a certain (famous) GIF. This points out the way GIFs can be used pars pro toto: A short moving image works nicely as a communication tool, symbol or metaphor in a broad variety of situations, despite its origins in a very specific context. Actually, any Reaction GIF is also a good example for that.

If you like this kind of small background info pieces on single GIF examples, I can recommend the „GIF of the day“ section on ArtFCity. The archive reaches back quiet far.

We have seen it many times, that leagues and other sport organisations tried to get rid of GIFs – the Olympic Games 2016 being the most recent and noteworthy instance. Fans of American Football will witness the impact of this issue, as the NFL forbids its teams to use live streaming and GIFs themselves during games, threatening with hefty fines.

If you have read other stuff on this blog, you might know that I am very critical of Giphy’s GIF-world domination ambitions. And they are not even reserved about it. So, just for documentation purposes, here is their summarisation of their accomplishments.

fyi [links, sep 2016]

Some more or less recent stuff, focussed on GIFs. Or other web animations. Or something else loosely connected to that.

Checking Patriarchy and Dogma Through the Art of the GIF

I am astonished that, from time to time, there are still articles about the pronunciation debate that are worth linking to, because they add a new aspect. In this case we find some socio-linguistic and media-theoretical background, which makes us wonder we we even bother.

When reading about the Olympic games and GIFs during August, it probably wasn’t about short clips of the athletes, but rather about the fact that the IOC has forbidden to publish content from the event in form of GIFs or similar animations for its media partners.
Here you can see how people on Twitter reacted to that restriction. And here we have two commentaries on that issue, one from a PR perspective and another from the viewer perspective.

While the IOC seems to see only negative sides of GIFs, other praise them as marketing tools. Here is an analysis of the economic value of GIFs for marketing business innovation buzzword buzzword blah asdbhb qwebkh profit! … Jokes aside – this article is merely one example of how GIFs and other web animations are seen as a tool for strategic communications/PR. We’ve seen this for years now and it’s increasing, of course. So I thought a quick reminder like this would be nice to keep in mind that our cultural goods are open to everyone, even if this might turn out to be annoying.

You might know /r/behindthegifs, but I wasn’t aware of the web comic „Behind the GIFs“ by Andy C. Stuart. And I thought I could put some more amusing stuff into this link list, not only rants about GIFs being taken over by companies and so on :)

Gfycat has a short note about their GIF URL naming conventions that, in one case, even turned into a GIF-naming recursion.

Why not tell the history of GIFs as a fairy tale? Kenyatta Cheese did that, as you can watch here or read here.