Watch funny GIFs all day, for science!

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2014-03-09


Researchers at MIT are analyzing animated GIFs in an attempt to catalog what they believe to be a unique, Internet-based emotional vocabulary.

An animated GIF—these days often presented in the form of a "reaction GIF"—can make us laugh, but it can also help convey various other complex emotions, including anger, contempt, guilt, or even empathy in an environment that is frequently dominated by text. The advantage of communicating with GIFs, claim the authors of this research, is they can quickly and easily add context in a subtle way that text or emoticons cannot.

The project, called GIFGIF, was created by Travis Rich and Kevin Hu, research students at MIT's Media Lab working across a mix of fields including data science, who hope to capture this specific kind of vocabulary using quantitative methods (i.e., you). Their ultimate goal is to create a tool that lets people explore the world of GIFs by the emotions they evoke, rather than by manually entered tags. The best part? The quantitative nature of the research means you no longer have to feel guilty for looking at funny GIFs all day.

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