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


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 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, jul 2016]

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

PBS Idea Channel: ”Every argument for pronouncing GIF is wrong and that’s okay.

GIF art time! A directional microphone sends the recorded content to a Raspberry Pi, that transforms it into a key word search on Giphy and then shows the results as a 3×3-matrix on a screen.

ArtFCity about, a website full of GIFs from pages that are blocked by the „Great Chinese Firewall“.

Whatsapp seems to include GIF support in a new release. Well, it was only a matter of time, but it is actually rather late, isn’t it?

Minimaxir (I will come back to his Reddit analytics in an upcoming article) presents a method for ”Unlimited Data Storage Using Image Steganography and Cat GIFs“ – which is, of course, a joke.

fyi [links, jun 2016]

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

The author of this article takes the position that ”standard“ GIFs included in GIF-libraries should not be used. Staple GIFs that can be found via key word search are convenient on one hand, but on the other hand rather arbitrary and may lack the personal note.

Here we have a short article portrait about a spanish artist, including some of his thought of GIFs in the context of art, social commentary and different audience groups for modern art.

Last month I haven’t found that many links. As a small compensation, here are two links to older podcast episodes about some aspects of GIF culture:

About two years ago, Tyler Menzel from Giphy was a guest at the sideshow podcast. (MP3)

Last summer, the Teen Screen Feminism Podcast had an episode about ”shipping“ – fan fiction and GIFs in that context. (MP3)

fyi [links, may 2016]

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

TGIF: A New Dataset and Benchmark on Animated GIF Description
More GIF science, hooray! This paper examines techniques for automatic GIF description. Two side notes: The authors see this as (only?) one step towards automatic video description. And this research was supported by Yahoo (and others) – might Flickr plan some new GIF features?

At first I wondered why I found so many articles about GIFs during the last weeks, but then I quickly became bored of the many mentions of Giphy. They apparently are on promotion tour to pursue their wet dream of total GIF domination – sadly I’m not joking.

Here is one of many recent portraits of how Giphy emerged, peppered with some context from the current situation of GIF culture. The following quote points out the most important observation: ”If Giphy succeeds, it could represent a massive shift in the way GIFs are produced and shared, effectively moving GIFs from a mostly bottom-up expression of the Internet counterculture to a mostly top-down product led by the marketing agendas of big media companies and brands.“

How the GIF Is Taking Over the World“ – Seriously, can nobody talk about GIFs without drowning in superlatives anymore? Anyway, this is one of these articles that sums up GIF trends from the last year or so and I actually only link to it because of this: “That interactive future for photography is not yet here, but GIFs are perhaps the harbingers of what’s the come.“ Well then, bring it on:)

From Zoetrope to GIF and back
This article follows the traces of Zoetrope-like artefacts in the GIF-dominated world of animations nowadays.

Twitter’s ‘GIF Party’ Is Just a Sneaky Way for the Site to Promote Itself“ – The headline raises hopes for a critical media analysis, but after a short introduction the author presents… a list of his favourite GIFs from Twitter. m( Or should we rather call it Videos?

MEMEWARS: of gif campaigns and gamer politics“ was a short talk at the re:publica about the approach to use visual communication for political activism and what effects have to be concerned when trying to do that.

In the first 20 minutes of this ”Reply All“ podcast episode, you can hear the well researched story about the old GIF website Animation Plaza, that was full of obscure GIFs.

This last link is a German article that contains one aspect I’d like to mention here. German scholar Daniela Wentz, who was interviewed for this article, describes the ”Distinktionskraft“ of GIFs (one might translate it as distinction potency). By comparing GIFs to emoji, she highlights how the enormous variety of GIFs may give you an exact expression for a very specific emotion. This way, GIFs include very fine nuances that go far beyond a rather simple smiley. Of course, we all knew that, but it’s nice to have an analytical term for it.

fyi [links, mar 2016]

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

First we have an interview with Olia Lialina, who is one of the earliest GIF artists, about current web art development and her project to preserve GeoCities pages. In a sidenote she states, that she is ”not an animated GIF model anymore but a PNG model.“

Giphy founder Alex Chung held a presentation at SXSW (audio recording at Soundcloud). I try to hold back my criticism, but amongst only a few interesting ideas and viewpoints, I think most of his statements are either biased historical views or an exaggerated praise of GIF’s future. That’s something I also criticised about Adam Leibson’s (Giphy COO) statements earlier. The story they tell basically goes like that: GIFs are awsome, but just ”now“ they have gained ”real“ popularity and the Giphy guys actually see GIFs as the universial communication medium in the future. Guess that happens when you run a business focussed on GIFs and have to sell a product. At least that comes along with a huge variety of GIF applications and support for many artists. I just wish they could do that without presenting GIFs as the saviour of communication and without the absolutist demand that Giphy will be the one dominating GIF entity.

Also at SXSW, there was a discussion about sports events coverage on Twitter. They talk a little about GIFs here and there, but I think the key aspect was mentioned during the Q&A towards the end: Sports league officials started to realise that GIFs are very effective in spreading enthusiasm about sports. But handling copyright very restrictive, as those leages tend to do, only restrain this positive, community-driven effect.

And at last: I decided that I want a place to collect some GIFs that I make from time to time and present some from elsewhere on the web. You can find it at

A comment on Adam Leibsohns vision about the future of GIF communication*

*You want a social-media-suitable headline? Here you go: The 2 simple reasons why GIFs won’t kill language.

The recent link list on this blog already referenced the video of Adam Leibsohns talk “Why GIFs Are the Words of the Future“. I’d like to have a closer look on that, because I don’t fully agree with what Leibsohn is predicting. Basically he follows the already known idea that our (online) communication develops from text to symbols to animated GIFs. No new idea, of course, and so far I am totally fine with it. But he draws the conclusion that this means the end of the communication with words. Of course this is an extreme point of view and he most certainly wants to provoke our world view here (and, on the fly, advertise his website). But nonetheless I’ll take this as an invitation to share some thoughts about that. There are two aspects that Leibsohn seems to see as facts, but that I disagree with.

First of all GIFs (or animations in general) won’t substitute words – they include them. GIFs are a great enhancement of online communication, especially for emotions, but they are not capable of being the one and only communication medium. Just look how many GIFs won’t work without subtitles or some bits of text as a headline or a related comment. This is no weakness of this medium, but it shows that it only works under certain circumstances and for a rather limited range of purposes. If you, for example, only want to express your feelings, a GIF will do the trick. But if an exact information is needed, a more elaborate and concrete way of expression is necessary. Instead, the strenght of GIFs is their ambiguity.

Secondly, the shift from words to animations won’t happen in the material world as it does on the internet. Of course these two spheres are converging more and more and we can’t really think of them as seperate from one another. But there will always be things happening exclusively in one of these spheres. This means there will be situations when we don’t have a GIF (or something similar) at hand to express ourselves with. And then it is very probable that we will rather use language and/or gestures instead of not communicating. So when Leibsohn states: “We’re not gonna communicate through words anymore” it becomes very clear that he is very much exaggerating the impact of GIFs on our communication. It’s nice to see such enthusiasm about the future of GIFs but it has to be more realistic to persuade me.

As I already said, I know that Leibsohn only presented an utopic vision rather than a reliable prognosis. But maybe, by showing the weak points of this vision with the contra arguments above, I can spur you to prove me wrong and let GIFs outplay words for real:)