In an effort to better understand animated images’ ability to “convey emotion, empathy, and context in a subtle way,” a pair of MIT researchers created GIFGIF. The site presents you with two randomly selected animated GIFs, and asks which better conveys a specific emotion, like fear, shame, excitement, or amusement. The goal is to use the responses to create a system by which GIFs can be categorized by the emotions they elicit in the viewer. The website Giphy already does this pretty well, but relies on manually entered tags rather than crowdsourced data.
“When you are sent a reaction GIF, it takes only a few seconds for you to ‘get it’,” Travis Rich, one of the researchers, told Wired UK. “GIFs convey emotions quickly and powerfully. GIFs are sent around on email chains, included in news articles, and are at the core of huge internet cultures. They are used to express every range of experience from the joy of the perfect burrito to the heartache of a devastating breakup. So long as we say that language is the meaningful communication of information, GIFs are the alphabet of internet culture.”
If you’d like to participate, you can do so here.