The discussion I had with Will Brand about animated GIFs a while back went south about the moment he used the word "butthurt." Nevertheless, here's the crux of the argument:
The preference for GIF as a medium, it seems to me, has nothing to do whatsoever with its compression algorithms, a teensy bit to do with the retro appeal of a limited color palette, and a whole lot to do with the fact that - as the very existence of your remix culture indicates - it's so easily interchanged.
This was after I questioned whether the word "interchange" in the acronym Graphics Interchange Format was the main reason someone might use the GIF format. Anyway, reply:
My guess is that the reason people put [the] "OptiDisc" [GIF] on their websites isn't because they thought, "oh this is something I can remix" but rather because it appealed on some more fundamental level. I'm interested in what that fundamental level is--probably a combination of formal properties, psychological investigation, critique, humor--and "remixability" comes somewhere further down the list.
Slight self-wince: the "f" word is usually best avoided because once it's out there people say "ah, so you're a formalist." Well, no, only an idiot suggests form is content... I did a better job of manifesto-izing earlier and I like Gene McHugh's discussion of how painterly interests could be adapted to a new medium. Brand knows the reasoning, he just doesn't agree, and continued throughout the thread to proffer his more theoretically correct take. (At least he didn't overtly talk about relational aesthetics.) By the end of the discussion he was telling me I should be happy to have the validation of the show.
Afterthought: Much of this is already moot because now that GIFs have gone mainstream we have to talk about them in a less self-conscious way. Some may feel trapped between the Scylla of social sculpture and the Charybdis of GIFs that look like 1940s art photography with a slight twitch. (hat tip DS)