Real Future

MIT Researchers Want to Understand the Language of Gifs

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an expertly-executed reaction gif is worth, like a thousand words per millisecond. Harnessing the potency of a Jennifer Lawrence cringe and the sheer force of a NeNe Leakes side-eye in a way that’s innately shareable and easily understood. They convey not only an emotional state, but a nuanced, specific state in one tidy, economical package. In fact, gifs’ capacity to convey so much information in such a quick, culturally-specific manner inspired two graduates working at the MIT Media Lab to quantify their meaningfulness.

Travis Rich and Kevin Hu created a site, GIFGIF, that allows users to choose which of two gifs best represents a specific emotional response, like, say, “satisfaction” or “disgust.” The goal, as they explain on the site, is to “create a tool that lets people explore the world of gifs by the emotions they evoke.”

To that end, here’s a helpful set of gifs to describe some common, everyday emotional responses:

“I Know I Look On-Point Overall But I Can Tell The Wings of My Eyeliner Are Slightly Uneven And It’s Drawing Attention to My Little Eye”

“I Wasn’t Sure About Making New friends as An Adult, But it Appears That This Person Hates All The Same People I Do”

“If This Person Mentions His Thought Catalog Piece on The Erotic Appeal of Yoga Pant Mooseknuckle One More Time…”

“I’m Going to Like My Own Facebook Status. About Me.”

“That Person Is So Hot I Wouldn’t Mind if She Wrote a Missed Connection About Smelling Me on the G Train”

“This Person Said the Word ‘Listicle’ Out Loud”

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