An animated .gif consumer technology exploration 16.03.2019 – 22.05.2020

0.

The internet is made by people. This realization lingers in the codes that make up the websites in our browsers, in the collaborative effort of the Wikipedia project, and in virtually any icon, emoji, or button. Even machine learning, which is often mistaken for artificial intelligence, is often based on manual input of data by a low wages workforce. 1

The most visible human face of the internet is found on social media. Facebook has over 3 billion users, including not only Facebook but also its additional apps: Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. 2

Instagram is an image-based social media feed. It has two types of publicizing posts: either permanent, or until the user decides to remove them, in a grid of squares that makes up your account, or via Instagram stories, where posts automatically disappear after 24 hours. 3

I use a lot of oval shapes in my work. They are eggs, or mirrors, or portals, or holes.

On my mobile phone, I discovered the hole emoji.

Various devices or operating systems use different designs. Since I’m using an iPhone, I stuck with the Apple version.

Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji comes from Japanese e (絵, “picture”) + moji (文字, “character”). 4

1.

First composition made in Instagram stories.

In March 2019, I was playing around with the Instagram stories feature. I started by making compositions using the hole emoji, but soon found out I could add small, transparent .gif animations to these images.

This produced ultrashort, 5 second miniature looped videos.

The animations were extremely simple to produce on my phone, by dragging the elements to the desired place on the – quite small – screen.

This was in stark contrast to the elaborate technology of my usual 3D animation practice, that requires a professional desktop computer, specialized software, a mouse, and some serious skills.

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What surprised me, though, was the effectiveness of these animations. They seemed a crossover between image and video, between perpetual movement and stillness, and between consumer technology and fine arts.

2.

A .gif animation is, simply put, a digital file that loads images into a stack, and is able to switch between layers, creating the illusion of movement.

.Gifs were never really meant to do this. They were developed as a way to compress images for use on the early internet, when dial-up connections were still slow, and data needed to be wrapped as tightly as possible in order to get it from one place to another.

Sticker (transparent .gif) based on a 2014 video work, ‘The Poisson’s Equation’.
  1. AI’s new workforce: the data-labelling industry spreads globally. Madhumita Murgia, Financial Times, July 24 2019. Retrieved May 22 2020. []
  2. Number of Facebook users worldwide 2008-2020. J. Clement, Statistica.com, Apr 30, 2020. Retrieved May 22 2020. []
  3. Facebook has a similar ‘stories’ feature integrated, and posts can simultaneously be shared on both platforms []
  4. See the Wikipedia entry on Emoji. []