And not just for expressing your feels about Supernatural
April 18, 2015 3:53 AM   Subscribe

And this is significant: not just because it enables a deeper, more thorough analysis of visual media, but because it makes that analysis both overt and accessible in a way it wasn’t before. A well-constructed gifset is a thing of tremendous beauty, and the more of them I see, the more I’m convinced that we’re in the midst of an academic paradigm shift. It’s not just that gifsets let us contrast the dialogue, cinematography, composition and acting of various visual narratives side-by-side in unprecedented ways, or even the fact that anyone, potentially, can make one; it’s the that this tremendously useful ability is online-only at a time when the vast majority of academic writing, even when digitally accessible, is stuck in static, access-restricted, locked-in formats, despite the fact that most everyone else is using free blogging platforms.
Foz Meadows: how gifs are changing critical analysis.
posted by MartinWisse (10 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I wish I could respond this this thoughtful analysis, but we can't post images so I am unable to.
posted by Mezentian at 4:58 AM on April 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Additional advantage of animated gifs is that such a vast, overwhelming majority of them are LOLfodder or meant to be that by now the first payload all of them deliver (straight to the reptile brain, before conscious parsing) is "This is LOLfodder or meant to be." Which in film criticism is all to the good.

posted by jfuller at 6:20 AM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wish she had provided examples of what she considered thoughtful academic uses of gifts.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:20 AM on April 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

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I just don't find gifs any sort of vehicle for anything remotely approaching discourse. They pretty much always come off as glib, simplistic, kid-trying-on-dad's-clothing sort of artless imitation. What that says about contemporary academic discourse I leave as an exercise for the reader.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:33 AM on April 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Didn't someone recently "write" a short story only featuring animated gifs?
I didn't click on the link, but I think it was at io9 or - although a quick google hasn't turned it up.

Shaka. When the walls fell…
posted by Mezentian at 6:48 AM on April 18, 2015

the first payload all of them deliver (straight to the reptile brain, before conscious parsing) is "This is LOLfodder or meant to be."

Which underlines the seriousness of the House Judiciary Committee's message. But I guess Goodlatte knows his base.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:54 AM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is timely — over the last few weeks I've seen a big rise in folks talking about gifs and their allure & uses. This one, from Open Vis Conf, was the best.
posted by dame at 7:56 AM on April 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

A lot of the technical knowledge I need is locked up in 60-minute tutorial videos that contain content I could have skimmed in less than five minutes in written form. No. Let's just use words again, instead of hastening Newspeak Video Edition.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:31 AM on April 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

So one thing gifs are really good for is combining the awesomeness of video (showing hard to describe things) with words and also, via looping, fixing the whole rewind problem. But also — people like conferences.
posted by dame at 1:52 PM on April 18, 2015

Gifs alone aren't always super helpful for discourse, though they can certainly be helpful to point out similarities of composition, running themes, callbacks, etc. Where the gif and the gifset shine is in how they can enable side-by-side comparison quickly in a way that facilitates analysis and discussion. It took me a while to find a representative example because I am a total failure at organizing my tumblr, but I think this gifset comparing Elementary's Sherlock/Irene relationship and BBC Sherlock's Sherlock /John relationship and the resulting analysis shows some of the strengths of the form.

The gifset maker has an argument to make: that both Elementary's Sherlock/Irene and BBC Sherlock's Sherlock/John relationships involve gaslighting and are abusive. Each gif from each show is matched together, and each set shows one aspect of an abusive relationship, which the gifset maker explicates below the gifset. The effect is meant to be disturbing, all the more so if you're familiar with both shows. Elementary's narrative is explicit about how abusive and damaging the Sherlock/Irene relationship is. BBC Sherlock's narrative, on the other hand, does not depict the Sherlock/John friendship as abusive. The gifset is meant to give a different context to the Sherlock/John relationship, to show it from a different perspective through the lens of its sister adaptation's approach to similar material.

You could make these same points in an essay, sans gifs, or with video. But a gifset lets you take it in in seconds, and makes an immediate side-by-side comparison. If you're familiar with both shows, the parallel the gifset is pointing out is readily apparent, the argument fairly clear already. There's added context in the text below, and further brief analysis, but taking a look at that gifset, you can get a whole paper's worth of argument and analysis out of it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the right gifset is potentially worth a lot more than that.

A well-constructed gifset like this is an essay in gif form. Other gifsets can tell a constructed reality story that didn't make it into the source, can point out a shared theme across a film franchise that spans years and multiple sets of characters, and can do the heavy lifting of any number of bits of character analysis in any number of visual media sources.
posted by yasaman at 3:20 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

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