I was reading Lev Manovich’s essay “What is Digital Cinema” the other day and came across this:
Cinema’s most immediate predecessors share something else. As the nineteenth-century obsession with movement intensified, devices which could animate more than just a few images became increasingly popular. All of them
the Zootrope, the Phonoscope, the Tachyscope, the Kinetoscope were based on loops, sequences of images featuring complete actions which can be played repeatedly. […] Even Edison’s Kinetoscope (1892-1896), the first modern cinematic machine to employ film, continued to arrange images in a loop. 50 feet of film translated to an approximately 20 second long presentation a genre whose potential development was cut short when cinema adopted a much longer narrative form.
But of course, the art form of loops wasn’t cut short. It just went dormant until someone invented the Graphics Interchange Format.
The internet is usually either seen as a way to distribute books, movies, and other contemporary cultural forms in a more efficient way, or else as a playground for emergent forms — hypertext literature and the like. Interesting to think that it could be reviving old forms as well.
More GIF fun: