Tumblr’s GIF culture and the infinite image: Lone fandom, ruptures and ‘working through’ on a microblogging platform

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Downloads (Pure)


This article argues that Tumblr’s modes of looping and repetition (especially via the circulation of GIFs) offer a potential source of comfort during moments of fannish rupture. Discussing my own responses to the ending of a favourite television series, it argues that the repetition of Tumblr - the sense of infinity that is engendered by the fact that one may see the same thing reblogged and turning up on their ‘dash’ over and over again - can be understood as a source for working through moments of affective disruption. Discussing Tumblr’s ‘endless scroll’ (Stein 2016) and the reblogging of images and GIFs/GIFsets across fan blogs after the finale of the television series Hannibal, the article also considers how use of one specific platform can “make more visible how fans respond to the absence, rather than the presence, of fan objects” (Williams 2015, 205). In so doing it argues for an understanding of fan engagement and attachment that draws on Freud’s (1924/1956) work on repeating and ‘working-through’ and those who have expanded his models to understand the relationship between repetition, trauma and the wider media (see Lee 2016; Meek 2011; Sturken 2007). It proposes that the repetition engendered by the repeated viewing of GIFs and GIFsets on the site can offer a source of comfort and catharsis for fans in periods of mourning. The piece thus draws on these areas of study to argue for Tumblr as a specific platform for fan engagement, and its use as a mechanism for reassurance in the face of moments of fannish rupture.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransformative Works and Cultures
Issue numberTumblr and Fandom
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2018


  • Fandom
  • Audiences
  • Television
  • Freud
  • endings
  • Working-through


Dive into the research topics of 'Tumblr’s GIF culture and the infinite image: Lone fandom, ruptures and ‘working through’ on a microblogging platform'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this