An animated gif is a magical thing. It contains the power to convey emotion, empathy, and context in a subtle way that text or emoticons simply can't.

GIFGIF is a project to capture that magic with quantitative methods. Our goal is to create a tool that lets people explore the world of gifs by the emotions they evoke, rather than by manually entered tags.

Play with the project at

The project owes much inspiration to the Place Pulse project and its team.

GIFGIF has been lovingly written by Travis Rich and Kevin Hu with much support from the grad students and faculty in the Viral Communications and Macro Connections research groups.

GIFGIF is built in hopes of answering some really interesting questions. Does a gif's emotional variance impact how it's received? (We have a hunch that emotional variance is why :) is pretty acceptable but ;) is typically an awkward mix of creepy/sexy/playful/pirate-y). Does a gif's emotional content vary between cultures? For example, what is the best representation of happiness for Germans, compared to a Canadian's impression?

We build this project with the caveat that emotions are tricky–and by no means a trivial (or even possible) thing to quantify. We seek to use emoticons that represent a "core" or "basic" emotion so we can understand the atomistic elements of what a gif is conveying. For such a complex goal, we defer to the breadth of research and career-long effort of Paul Ekman. In some of his earlier work he found six emotions to be universal and basic: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. In the 90s, he expanded this selection of universal emotions to include the 17 you find right here on GIFGIF.

These are by no means definitive, correct, or absolute, but our goal is to make a gif website–not solve the open questions of universal human emotions. Some reading for those interested: [1] [2]