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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 46, Issue 2/3, 2018

Camelia Gradinaru
Pages 294-318

GIFs as floating signifiers

This paper investigates GIFs that use famous paintings and art collages in order to discern if their possible interpretations justify the label of ‘floating signifiers’. For this purpose, I explain what ‘floating signifier’ means and describe what happened with the term when it was correlated with the issues of information and digital materiality. Thus, in new media, the parallel term for ‘floating signifier’ is Hayles’s ‘flickering signifier’. In a subtle manner, GIFs represents perfect instantiation of both concepts. The paper also addresses the main “portrait” of GIFs, examining them in both online (Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook) and offline discursive contexts. The signifieds attributed to particular examples of GIFs, and to GIFs in general, delineate their profile in terms of floating signifiers.

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