Last semester I worked with UMW Chinese History professor Sue Fernsebner (this was PTF or, pre-Tumblr fame 🙂 ) on her Chinese History through Film course. It was an amazing course that I attended on-and-off throughout the semester. I blogged about it on several occasions last semester, and what I loved about the course is that Sue and I were exploring the possibilities of analyzing film using a seemingly arcane digital format like the animated GIF pretty much along side the students. I really enjoyed making multi-shot GIFs of two scenes from Red Sorghum that corresponded to a particular historical analysis of the film from the readings as a way of trying to demonstrate their possible value. And if you are into film analysis, the idea of incorporating GIFs into a detailed analysis of a scene seems to me an essential visual aid for this predominantly visual medium.
The idea was to experiment with GIFs to capture a moment (or several moments) in cinema in order to replay it again and again to get a sense of how it is working both technically and thematically. Throughout the class Sue was experimenting with GIFs as well (which for me is the tell-tale sign of an awesome faculty member practicing what she preaches!), and as a result she worked GIFs into the course as an extra-credit assignment, which resulted in a GIF-off at the end of the semester in which students voted for their favorites (you can see the submissions here).
I’ve been part of a lot of cool things at UMW over the last eight years, and working with Sue to take the first steps of integrating GIFs into her Chinese Film course curriculum was one of the coolest yet. She even invited Andy Rush and I to her class to do a session on creating GIFs using GIMP–one of the highlights of my career as an instructional technologist. Sue will be teaching this class again in Spring 2014, and I look forward to not only watching the films again, but helping to frame a GIFiculum that marries analysis and animation within a digital frame of film scholarship.