By: Peggy Nelson
March 20, 2013

Animated gifs have been having a moment, and the moment shows no signs of being over.


The fashion cycle of initial enthusiasm — reactionary disparagement — ironic reinvestment has occurred for animated gifs within an internet lifetime of… well, the lifetime of the internet. The world wide web version of it, that is. From seamless-seeming cinematographs, to the lo-res retro websafe approach, from delicate op-art vortices, to cheap’n’fast banner ads, animated gifs are everywhere and expanding. Except for one area.

Animated gifs are silent.


[Gif by Michael Pitt, GIFbite by Daniel Rourke]

Loops, in their more general guise as repetition, have been a central aspect of music since… well we’d have to check the stone tapes to be sure, but arguably since the lifetime of music.

The do-it-on-the-radio answer to “what is a sound gif” might be “the ringtone,” but there’s no reason to stop there. Like their visual relatives, sound gifs need not be limited to pop hooks and skeuomorphs.


[Gif source wikimedia commons, GIFbite by Jimmy Kipple Sound]



[Gif and GIFbite by Èmilie Gervais]



[Gif source wikipedia, GIFbite by Mandi Goodier]

To explore this question, and manifest what hypotheticals may come, Daniel Rourke created GIFbites, an idea inhabiting the intersection of visual and sonic repetition.


[Gif and GIFbite by elixrix]

At its most basic, a GIFbite is a soundbite for an animated gif. But that’s intended more as a threshold than a definition.

GIFbites is a weekly podcast on/about/for animated GIFs. Each episode lasts no more than 15 seconds.

Interpretations so far have included soundtracks, podcastian abstracts, singing, history, even short loops that might stand alone for their 15 seconds of fame. All GIFbites are tied to a particular animated gif, sometimes amplifying the original intention, sometimes warping into dissonance.


[Gif and GIFbite by Peggy Nelson; gif created from “Light Point Arrays” by Stephan Tillmans, still photographs which capture the exact second in which tube televisions are switched off and the image breaks down.]



[Gif by Valentin; GIFbite featuring vintage Amiga Module sounds, by Doctor QE / tahoma59.]



[Gif and GIFbite by Gretta Louw]



[Gif by acecalhoun, GIFbite by Daniel Rourke]

Like the animated gif, GIFbite tech is purposely simple and stepped-back. You don’t need to use fancy synths, or to try and get the band back together. Just like animated gifs, GIFbites involve a relatively lo-tech democracy: all that’s needed are the interwebs and a computer. And Edison’s 99%.

So: inspiration, mashup, jumping-off point, Oulipo/oumupo: GIFbites need just one more thing.



[Gif by iwdrm, GIFbite by Peggy Nelson]

Submit today! Submission form:


GIFbites website (& @gifbites)
GIFbites on SoundCloud
Daniel Rourke website (& @therourke)

Read more about animated gifs on HiLobrow:
The GIF is back
Paleo GIFs
Inanimate(d) GIFs
The Painted Glitch
Annotated GIF series


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