The Academic GIF

GIF from In the Mood for Love

I wrote several months ago about the experience of working alongside UMW’s Chinese History scholar Sue Fernsebner to start imagining how she might integrate animated GIFs into a curriculum centered around film analysis. I tongue-and-cheek referred to it as GIFiculum, or GIF as curriculum. Sue has been doing some serious work on this front, and she recently emailed me about how she will be re-structuring her Chinese History through Film course to make the GIF work central to the film analysis in the final paper. Framing it, to use Sue’s words, as “an exercise in visual and thematic analysis.” How cool is this?

A few of us from DTLT will be heading to her class around mid-semester to run a workshop for the students on creating GIFs. This is something Andy Rush and I did last semester and it was a blast. There will also be a GIF Awards ceremony the final week of the course to collectively analyze and discuss what makes an effective “visual and thematic analysis” in this medium.

What’s so cool about this for me is that all that play around the GIFs that was part of the ds106 open course/communty over the past few years could easily have been written off by faculty as a waste of time. So to see it being thoughtfully integrated into a history curriculum that reinforces some of the basic elements of visual literacy and reading media is awesome. This is exactly what we should be be doing as an intellectual community, and with faculty like Sue Fernsebner there’s no reason it can’t be a lot of fun! This is very good omen to start the Spring semester.

What’s more, given that Sue has an extremely popular Tumblr about Chinese Culture and History, I would imagine the next iteration of this course might be to open it up for broader feedback on students’ work as well as an invitation for GIF analysis from the web at large. This course would be a brilliant candidate for a ds106-like course hub that bleeds onto the web ins ome pwoerful ways. Who doesn’t like to watch, learn, and share about film?

FInally, this semester there are some excellent new films on the syllabus: Happy Together (1987), Devils on the Doorstep (2000), In the Mood for Love (2000). It should be an amazing class—Sue Fernsebner is the real deal Holyfield!

In the old days, if someone had a secret they didn’t want to share… you know what they did? They went up a mountain, found a tree, carved a hole in it, and whispered the secret into the hole. Then they covered it with mud. And leave the secret there forever.