Have been describing animated GIFs as "ubiquitous mini-cinema" since before they were ubiquitous and now here's a post on whether they are "a type of cinema," written from a filmcrit POV.
You kind of have to laugh at the scholarly attention lavished on the "Picard vs Chunk" GIF but it's useful to apply film terminology such as the "180-degree rule" to GIFs (if for no other reason than it's a good way to learn about that concept):
Both [Bruce Conner's] A MOVIE and these animated gifs employ some common cinematic principles. The cuts create an eyeline match, which make it appear as though the characters are looking at one another, and obey the 180-degree rule (meaning that if you draw a straight line between their eyes, our perspective stays to one side of it).
Also considered is whether animated GIFs are video or photos:
In her recent Salon article, “Better Than Actual Porn!“, Tracy Clark-Flory ponders whether pornographic animated gifs are more like short videos or longer photographs. I’d argue that they exist on a spectrum between those two forms, capable of moving more toward one side or the other. The above Picard gifs are more like short videos. But the NYC subway gif and the dancing baby gif are arguably more like enhanced photos.
That's all fairly obvious but it's nice someone's trying to think beyond GIFs as throwaway culture and/or lifestyle trends. Around here we're mostly interested in the relation of GIFs to painting (abstract and otherwise), collage (surrealist and otherwise), and text (conceptual and otherwise) and also in taking GIFs beyond their ordinarily understood meaning as a vehicle for "Picard vs Chunk" jokes. Which is not to say those "meme" GIFs don't show up here occasionally.