Ah, the reaction GIF. If you haven't come across the phrase before, you've almost certainly seen the thing it refers to. They're the little animated snippets from movies or TV that people post online to stand in for their response to something they've read or watched. Think 30 Rock's Liz Lemon giving herself a high five, or Arrested Development's George Michael falling to the floor in shame (a quick mosey through the gallery above should give you the idea).
Now The Museum of the Moving Image in New York is putting on an installation dedicated to the form, aptly called The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture. Earlier this week, associate curator of digital media Jason Eppink canvassed the internet hive mind known as Reddit to crowdsource submissions for the exhibition:
Here's all I need from you: comment with what you would consider "classic" reaction gifs (e.g. Michael Jackson eating popcorn in Thriller or Orson Welles clapping in Citizen Kane). Then briefly explain what it means when you use it. Think of it this way: if you had to describe how reaction gifs are used in Reddit comment threads to your grandmother, which ones would you show her and how would you describe what they mean? My hope is that we end up with a consensus of 30 to 50 gifs and their translations.
Reddit did not disappoint, with dozens of great responses across a couple of threads. We've rounded up some of our favourites in the gallery above, along with the explanatory notes from Redditors. The exhibit runs March 12–May 15 in New York.
At this point you might be thinking, "how did Jason Eppink get so lucky as to collect GIFs for a living?" Well, one of the Redditors had the same question, asking the curator: "You really have the best job in the world, you know?"