Tumblr's Supernatural fandom and the rhetorical affordance of GIFs

  • Jessica Hautsch Stony Brook University
Keywords: Literary affordance, Visual culture


The rhetoricity of GIFs on Tumblr is analyzed by using the Supernatural (2005–) fan community as a case study. Tumblr's platform design, which encourages visual communication and content sharing, allows users to assert their identities as fans and their memberships to fan communities through the production and curation of visual content. Supernatural fans on Tumblr make affordances of GIFs from the show and its extratextual materials, putting them to various rhetorical uses, including emotional expression, transformative storytelling, inside jokes, and argumentation. Tumblr's platform, which facilitates the spread of content through its reblogging function, allows GIFs to be shared among various interpretative communities for whom the images contain different connotations and meanings. Because of their decontextualization, recontextualization, and intertextuality, GIFs offer a complex and rhetorically layered mode of communication on Tumblr.

Author Biography

Jessica Hautsch, Stony Brook University
Jessica Hautsch is an adjunct instructor with Stony Brook University's Educational Opportunity program and Suffolk County Community College's English Department and . She has accepted admission into Stony Brook's PhD in English program, where she plans to continue her work on the rhetoric of fandom.