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Don't mistake the term "quote" here to refer only to quotations of speech; a gif can "quote" things that aren't dialogue. Body language; VFX; visual gags; animation styles. Add the sound back in—but keep the "short" and "looping" qualities†—and you can quote foley effects, "silly noise" gags, and acting tics.

In the same way that e.g. video games are at their best as an art-form when their interactivity is essential to their message, these visual quotations are at their best when they're "quoting" something that can't be reduced to static pictures and text.

I note that—where available—people seem to like using sub-second gif clips of old cartoon characters making very particular expressions, in place of emoji. These are quotations: quotations of body-language "acting" depicted in a TV show. We don't think of them that way because we're not "quoting" with rigour for the purpose of critical analysis, but it's still what's going on.


† I don't know what to call these... pseudo-gifs. The type of thing you find on Vine or Tumblr: webm videos restricted to a 5-second length, autoplayed and autolooped, but played silently until clicked on. This form is just as common now as the classical gif for sharing, though you don't tend to see these audio-gifs embedded in articles.

I don't think I mistook you. The Popular Mechanics piece gives an example of quoting body language from Audrey Hepburn in the 1953 movie 'Roman Holiday'.

I don't know how I'm supposed to interpret that loop, or how it fits into any context. I can think of multiple interpretations, and have no way to figure out which one is meant, or if that mixture of interpretations is the point.

It's "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" for me, but without even the search ability that the text phrase has to figure out how it's used in context.

Do you have an example of how quoting is used in a good way?

> "quotations of body-language "acting" depicted in a TV show"

Similar problems exist in TV shows when actors require the watcher to know the allusion (or "quote") in order to understand what's going on. I remember as a kid watching the old Loonie Tunes and recognizing there was a gag, but not understanding it. My mom would explain that it depending on knowing that they were referencing some piece of 1950s American pop culture.

When done well, the quotes fit in smoothly. You don't need to know it's from an external source, though knowing that it does provides extra depth and texture. For example, see "References to 70-80’s movies in Stranger Things" at https://vimeo.com/175929311 .

But in mixed media of text and video, it's very hard to make a smooth transition. That's why I wrote that the clips seem to stand out in large font, exclamation points, etc., as a "look at me!" attention grabber giving the quote far more attention as a quote than as a supplement to the conversation.

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