Which image better represents the emotion of fear? This one of Clint Eastwood or this one of Finding Nemo characters?
Created by MIT graduate students Travis Rich and Kevin Hu, the new website GIFGIF wants the public’s help in figuring that out by building a database of universal emotions using the ever popular GIFs.
The premise is simple: Visit the site and choose the GIF (there are two options) that better expresses a specific emotion — happiness, fear, satisfaction, contentment, etc. Impressively, the site launched earlier this month and already has about 15,000 users who vote about 10 times a day.
So why GIFs? “We were talking about GIFs one day,” Hu told Quartz, “and we realized that they’re becoming more and more serious of a medium. They’re more popular, they’re used for more things.” GIF’s popularity isn’t just for fun and games either. Their usage is creeping into serious subject matters as well. For example, Quartz cites GIF-loving website Buzzfeed recently used characters from MTV’s “The Hills” to explain the political situation in Ukraine. The creators told the publication that they want to someday translate a Shakespearian sonnet out of GIFs.
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We doubt high schools will mandate English literature be taught with GIFs anytime soon, but they do seem to be a legit mode of communication in the digital era. If you’ve surfed the web lately, these animated images are just about everywhere. In fact, GIFs are now the most popular photo format used online, according to Web Technology Surveys.
Even if you can’t stand to see another image of Lauren Conrad, GIFs have become commonplace because people seem to genuinely like them. So it kind of does make sense to create a database that can really pinpoint the perfect GIF that expresses “happiness” or “fear” or even the subtleties of Eastern European politics. These images help grab our attention and if it means that we have a better informed public thanks to characters from an MTV reality show, then so be it.