Pei Ying Lin’s @ca3rine New Emotions Invented by the Internet is brilliant. What is the word for an emotional connection to someone you meet online? I’ve been trying to find the word for internet friendship. What’s that emotion? Is there a new English word for the equivalent to the 网友 Pei Ying?
But what about emotions that are conveyed visually? What if our emotions aren’t just words, but a mix of image files and culture are twisted into a file format, like GIFs?
Kenyatta Cheese’s writing on reaction GIFs speaks to this new cultural practice:
"Being the advanced society I imagine Tumblr to be, we no longer have to use sentences and emoticons. We’ve figured out how to express ourselves by finding moments within common points of culture (movies, tv, YouTube videos) and posting that moment, that emotion, as a single 500kb reaction gif.”
He argues that the emergence of #feels reflects a new form of emotional communication.
Many techies dismiss the GIF form. But Anil Dash thinks GIFs are the most portable and participatory image format ever in history:
GIF is the most popular animation and short film format that’s ever existed. It works on smartphones in millions of people’s pockets, on giant displays in museums, in web browsers on a newspaper website. It finds liberation in constraints, in the same way that fewer characters in our tweets and texts freed us to communicate more liberally with one another. And it invites participation, in a medium that’s both fun and accessible, as the pop music of moving images, giving us animations that are totally disposable and completely timeless.
I agree with kenyatta and Anil. Something is happening with the way we are expressing ourselves online. I can’t help but think back to how hip-hop as a cultural form emerged as a new form of expression, and how GIF expression parallels this. A few months ago I wrote about how GIF attribution is a lot of hip-hop - authorship is rewarded through cultural practices.
So are GIFs, like hip-hop, a new form of cultural expression? YES. Absolutely. These emotions are still emerging, but we’re going to eventually need to make a database of GIF-based emotional expression. That would be a super fun project. Someone, do this. Please! Start it!
Also, Pei Ying Lin started a database to document untranslatable words.
My favorite Chinese word from her database is 纠结 Jiūjié - worried, feeling uneasy, don’t know what to do. 纠结 is the feeling that two things are pulling at your - it could be a moral dilemma or something very pressing. I often feel 纠结 in my life and I don’t know how to describe it in English. When I feel 纠结 , my liver feels heavy and my feet feel paralyzed.
Other Chinese words from Lin’s database:
- 忐忑 Tǎntè A mixture of uneasiness and worry, as if you can feel your own heart beat.
- 车嬌￼ Chē jiāo ￼ being cute or super sweet with closed ones to get loving attention
- 加油 Jiāyóu - A form of enouragement as if you are fighting along with the person, backing them up.