It is nearly impossible to surf the internet nowadays and not see the ever pervasive moving pictures known as gifs. Brief media consumption usually in the form of a gif has become an incredibly important facet of modern media browsing. This media format allows for the summarization or juxtaposition of many types of media formats. Often times this involves short video clips that involve a self evident action such as a humorous act, or as an expression of a certain action or feeling that does not relate to the original media. This form of gif is known as a reaction gif and has seen a tremendous rise in popularity over the past few years.
Though the idea and creation of the gif is a relatively new phenomenon, the concept of a meme has been around for much longer. According to Richard Dawkins, who wrote The Selfish Gene, a meme consists of the propagation of social material. Some examples of memes as shown in The Selfish Gene include,“tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.” (123) This shows how long before the internet was created memes still existed heavily apart from their digital counterparts. However, with the advent of the internet the ability to create and share memes such as gifs grew exponentially. The internet perfectly embodied Dawkins’ ideas for creating successful, pervasive memes. He believed that a successful meme requires “copy-fidelity, fecundity, and longevity.” (194) Comparatively the internet is built with data retention and data protection being of utmost concern. In addition, there are numerous websites and offline tools that allow for the near instant creation of memes such as gifs. This allows for a high amount of media richness as well as providing platforms such as social networks and websites for interpersonal, social involvement. Further, Michael Mandiberg said in his article “The Social Media Reader“, we will personalize the media rich environment to meet our needs and desires. (Mandiberg)
A popular tv show known as Breaking Bad has been used to create a large amount of gifs that both summarize events from the show and could easily be juxtaposed in various other texts.
For instance, this gif involves the character, Jesse Pinkman, saying the word what on a loop. This gif has little relevance towards the original media text, but makes for an extremely useful reaction gif. The lack of context allows for this gif to be used in multiple situations and help to convey feelings and emotions that could otherwise not be conveyed through text.
Another example of a meme from Breaking Bad involves a memorable seen where Walter White quits his job in a funny and dramatic fashion. This gif is unlike the previous example in the sense that it has a very specific context that it can be used in. For this reason this gif is more of a meme used to summarize a scene instead of a reaction.
I created this final gif to show how gifs can serve multiple purposes. For Breaking Bad fans, this gif depicts an important climax in the show. For others who are unfamiliar, this gif could easily be repurposed as a reaction gif for many scenarios. This shows how memes can be universally appealing and how sometimes memes can convey situations and emotions far better than text.
Mandiberg, Michael. The Social Media Reader. New York: New York UP, 2012. Archive.com. Web. 8 Feb. 2015.
Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. Web.