How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the GIF

Before I say anything else, just take a moment to see how brilliant Andrew Forgrave is at GIFFing, his recent commentary on the Animated GIF Variety Show Tom Woodward, Michael Branson Smith, Brian Lamb, Zack Dowell, and I presented last night for the #ETMOOC is brilliant—mad kudos!

The Annotated and Recut Animated GIF version of The Jim Groom Animated GIF #etMOOC Special, by aforgraveThe Annotated and Recut Animated GIF version of The Jim Groom Animated GIF Special, by aforgrave

Andrew, in the GIF above, gets at everything I wanted to say but didn’t, however it only begins to scratch the surface of the ruminations, insights, and general awesomeness of our esteemed variety show guests. The session frames the role animated GIFs played early on in the formation of ds106 as an open, online community for digital storytelling. Tom Woodward’s discussion of the animated GIF as an early assignment that galvanized community around a manageable bit of creative experimentation underscores the dual role GIFs played in building a sense of shared purpose as well as pushing folks to experiment with the form as a way of telling a fragmented, connected story.


From there Michael Branson Smith gave us a tour-de-force of “History of the GIF” that frames its cultural emergence and the various types being eperimented with on the web currently. What’s more, Michael is also a hardcore practitioner, and his animated Hitchcock GIF posters are a model of the artform in my mind.


From there, Brian Lamb led us into a frame for thinking about GIFs as rhythms, loops, early film, autonomous artifacts, not to mention just plain old fun! A conversation which begged the question why aren’t GIFs more prevalent in advertising at the moment? As of now they seem to still be created and distributed by and for the people.


Finally, Zack Dowell created a series of links to compelling visions of GIFs as the single panel cartoons of the internet, GIFs in journalism, the memetic <tendency of GIFs, as well as GIFs as reactionary lacuna. Needless to say we got deeper than you would think, even if the artform seems impenetrable at times, almost like explaining a joke, to misquote Brian 🙂


All that said, there were some small technical issues on our side, and for that I deeply apologize for the lag and any sound issues, but the only solace I can take from those issues is we continue to expriment with repesenting in compelling ways and Blackboard sucks and should not be a part of anything open! 😉

If you want more on Animated GIFs, and there is much more, check out the following video which is a short animated history of the GIF (thanks Amy Burvall):

Shout out to Aaron Mueller for making his first animated GIF during the session, and making it awesome:

And Grant Potter‘s Strongbad/ds106 mashup GIF (awesome!):

AnimatedfootprintsinthesandofBeachAlso, I would remiss if I did not thank Tom, Brian, Michael, and Zack for taking time out of the madness of the semester (that I can attest has gotten me supine and wailing) to do this with me—they made it awesome. Also, special thanks to Pete Rorabaugh for helping us organize and get everything together, he ruled. Finally, Tim Owens is the bestest ITS around, I can’t thank him enough for getting the video streaming setup and recording in no time flat (he even took the time to troubleshot the whole thing midstream from home!) —footprints! One thing people forget in the MOOC madness, it takes time and energy to do this stuff, and taking a moment publicly to acknowledge that goes a long way, thanks everyone!

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15 Responses to How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the GIF

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  4. Alan Levine says:

    It was brilliant, and generated a ton of energy. I dug the different perspectives each of you brought, and for an old media, I am still seeing it in new ways each time we provoke it.

    The video is beautiful, I just added it to the front page rotation mix for the ds106 site.

    • Reverend says:

      You’re too kind, just wish you were in it. Your blog has been insane with the GIFs for more than a year, and this month you have 35 fucking blog posts already? Jesus. Enfuego?

  5. Maggie says:

    Thanks for this great overview! It’s helpful to have the range of diverse examples all in one post and the summary GIF at the top to start it all off.

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