Notes on GIF SpeciationDecember 20, 2009
If the Metaphortean agenda is, at times, detoured when traversing ficto-quizzical terrain; the latest (((WFT))) endeavor, “The GIF Economy,” makes up for this harassing labor tenfold. The GIF Economy, a menagerie created under the auspices of the antiquated Graphic Interchange Format, invites denizens of the Interweb to create, appropriate and share GIF animations that more or less illustrate core tenets of the Weird Fiction Mythos.
Of myths and menageries, recall the origins of cinema. Muybridge, as eccentric shepard, herding animals into animations. Capturing their movements, indexing the species, accumulating a Noachian archive of images. Antecedent innovations–magic lantern shows, the zoetrope, the thaumotrope and their kin contributed likewise in caging the vital principles for playback and analysis.
The GIF is in some respects a stationary species, a living fossil, a holdover from the kinship of philosophical toys. Of particular import: the “wonder maker,” or thaumotrope. A smallish disc on a string, with images on either side, spun by its user so as create a third image by way of superimposition. The thaumotrope, a cine-molecular conceit in two frames looping is the common ancestor of GIFs today.
In other reports, a GIF is a dithered, limited to 256 colors, life in a browser, and its most splendid mega fauna typically weigh-in at no more than 1000 kilobytes. Of lines of descent, curvature and segmentation, there are a variety of speciation events to consider. Technocultural isolation, reduced meme flow and, of course, the Anomaly.
Crypto-zoetropicalism, and/or Crypto-zoetropical studies have made strides in identifying anomalous forms of animation including circuit-bent video games and data-moshing and other glitchcraft. This emphasis on cine-molecular variation within moving image arts is not, however, the distinguishing characteristic of the GIF animation, per se.
Limiting GIFs to a thaumotropical ancestry shot thru with pulses of the crypto-zoetropical is, at best, destined for deletionpedia if we do not consider the role of memetics.
Is this for instance a duck, or a rabbit? a still image or moving? The onlooker has no choice but to oscillate between animals ad infinitum. No need for a film projector, the mechanics are mental, part of a well-oiled cultural apparatus, a meme machine. Another two-frame loop, activated from within the mind, no strings attached. It is the strength of the meme pool that most vividly “animates” this of course. It’s pattern recognition rather than sequential logic.
Relatedly– the Bigfoot exists as moving image in an oft looped film sequence, recorded circa 1967, featuring the classic cryptid tromping through a clearing in Northern Californian woods.Over the years, skeptics and believers alike have poured over this filmstrip in attempts to understand the contents. Experts from both camps have broken down the sequence into discrete images in hopes of either exposing a hoax or proving the existence of Bigfoot as a living animal.
Memetic anatomy is what’s paramount here– “Bigfoot” begins and is sustained as a putty like thought-formation: rumor, report, filmic capture, tabloids, mass media and mass amateur mediation via digitized images, mashups, homages, reference hoaxes, spin-offs and jokes. This interplay of memetic nodes is amplified by computer networks, distributed globally across the Interwebs. Network realism is the lifeblood of a cryptid’s survival, photo-realism is secondary, actual occurrences sheepishly clawing at third place.
GIFs have facilitated Bigfoot, other cryptids, various memetic phenomena, yes. Strikingly, as context is collapsing galactically, globally and locally, the authority of photo-realist regimes does not compute. GIFs are contemporary cryptids, living fossils re-fueled, despite playback problematics and varied chokeholds posed by modern day browsers. Valuable operatives in a paradigm shift towards the ficto-quizzical! GIFs take the helm as stand alone memetic organisms thriving within the pervasively networked information environment. Abundant in internet forums, redolent of embarassing webcam moments, panopticoncentrated CCTV blips, celebrity gaffaws, unintended celebrities, faux-error messages, geocities artifacts, pop cultural in-jokes, optical illusions, visual trolling pranks and deeper, darker abysms of vile intent, GIFs prevail.
Hybridities and mutation are commonplace, as one memetically charged GIF infrastructure is piggybacked by another’s visual variant, thus altering the species. Modular and multiplex traits proliferate rhizomatically ‘cross the Interweb via recursive instantiations of memetic debris and endless bouts of ludic recombination, (not unlike exploits of the Majestic12) Initially short lifespans beget meandering permutations and coalessences that irupt into novel and derelict theory objects. This sprawl is facilitated by automated GIF animation sites, the mandate to recombinate, manageable possibilities and the sublimely abject aesthetics that are ever present and richly wielded in GIFs.
Having successfully erected obliteratariums for the study of denizens of dark webs and negative net space, i.e. the obliterati—Weird Fiction here laterally move this stronghold of greymarket R+D, aiming at the polterzeitgeist that is, in other words, the GIF ridden, memetic lifeworld of Interweb phenomena today. Temporary Autonomous Clones and temporarily autonomous Lorkurers are stationed in the foyer, sifting through incoming GIFS, classifying visual projectiles and building up a reservoir of GIF animations online and on site. Ultimately, these galleries-cum-GIF strongholds likely to crop up offline, elsewhere, globally– will be as rest stops and road-side attractions for the space-time implosions predicted to manifest in the coming age of ubiquitous computing and spimal taps. Weaponized whimsy, symptomatic of second-wave vampling? Again, dear readers, this ficto-quizzical is a curious lot for the fleshy mind of a mere Metaphortean Researcher to process in full. Till next time!