Pop Culture & GIFs

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Many times the GIF image is a representation of some cultural aspect that has the general consensus of the public. In order for the GIF to work, audiences need to understand the cultural context in which the GIF is referring. GIFs both refer to the universal experiences of the digital age but also to several subgroups. For example only people who watch certain shows will get GIFs that reference them. This may be a way to create social hierarchy within groups. Only those who get pop culture references can be listed in the “in-group”. Kate M. Miltner and Tim Highfield’s “Never Gonna GIF You Up: Analyzing the Cultural Significance of the Animated GIF” writes of how GIFs use humor as way to create and in and out groups. For you to understand the joke being referenced you need to understand the social context in which it is being derived, you need to have the cultural knowledge of the situation. Just think of a time when you felt uncool because you missed the cultural reference being referred to in a joke, or you felt left out because you didn’t know why “winter was coming”.

Only cool Game of Throne fans will understand why winter came long before December this year. Photo from Giphy

On the other hand some GIFs speak to the human experience as a whole. GIFs expressing emotions like happiness, love and anger will be relatable to all humans. Universal archetypes like these are easy to convert to GIF form and circulate.


You don’t have to appreciate Easy A or Emma Stone to relate to this portrayal of feeling embarrassed. Photo from Giphy


GIFs have become apart of the culture we have created in which we employ forms of media to shorten and speed up our communication with others. Why send a lengthy message when you can send acronyms like “omg” or animated images like GIFs that say everything you need them too?

Posted from Course Blogs by Shayla B.