Our culture associates the right brain- the creative, the abstract and the chaotic- with art, emotion, intuition and faith. On the other hand, we think of technology as a very left-brained enterprise, cerebral and logical and predictable.
But while technology might be impeccably sensible in and of itself, the role it plays in our society is far from straightforward. Why did texting become a thing when it’s slower, harder and more expensive than calling? How is it we can sift through the sum of human knowledge in seconds, but we still can’t manage to make a decent hovercar? How will we possibly explain Lolcats to our grandchildren?
This cute little film is a visual ode to one of the most surprising little gems that progress has yielded: The GIF. The film introduces itself as a history, but it’s more of a love letter. In the form of this eccentric little file format, technology and culture have made sweet, sweet romance to bring forth a weird, pixelated, repetitive baby that continues to enchant us all.
Featuring a sequence of repeating, joyfully clunky images in the more versatile medium of traditional film, director Sean Pecknold shows us that the parameters constraining the GIF can be part of its beauty. Just as a sonnet can augment language by restricting it, the limits of the GIF compared to high-resolution video can just be another dimension of its odd, self-effacing charm.
There are sensible, unromantic explanations as to why this strange little format caught on. If every webpage had to load a streaming high-def video with stereo sound quality, surfing the web would be a cumbersome nightmare. Plus, the compact file size of the GIF makes it easy to store, upload and share.
Be that as it may, one shouldn’t write off the more whimsical possibility that there’s something magical about the mighty GIF that just speaks to the human spirit.