Update 2017 – scroll to the end of this very long (ex) storify to get details of some new giffing resources I have come across in the last little while. Enjoy.

See more amazing gifs from the artist above here:

I am using this space to collect data to write a post to answer the question above and also to offer it as resource to anyone who may be asking this question:Why do you gif?

You might think that is is a simple enough question to ask a digital storytelling community on G+ yet Robin may have been surprised at the extent of our engagement with the question. 18 comments later, he said:

“Wow thanks for all these awesome responses!! Given me tools as well as how to incorporate a gif meaningfully into learning. You all ROCK!”

You might have thought that would be the end of it. But we continued to comment and engage with the post. Partly it is because not all of us accept the premise that the animated gif could (or should) be incorporated meaningfully into learning. We enjoy teasing each other and openly discuss our differences. I sometimes think that this very polarised responses to the gif is the thing that makes it such a central part of the DS106 narrative. Be that as it may, I planned a quick post to answer the question of the title, Beautifully posed by Sandy Brown Jensen. In response to Robin’s question above she said:

“First of all, figure out your objectives in the cognitive realm, i.e. why do you want to make a gif at all?”

I took up the challenge to answer the question, never imagining that it would take me to pages full of links that discuss the value of animated gifs, its history, its uses, how to use art appreciation tools to evaluate their quality….and very beautiful examples of animated gif new and old. The post was never going to be a quick one!

I decided to ask on Twitter. I asked the question and created the #whygif hashtag to help me collect answers. We started with the straight forward answer – we make them for fun. This quickly gave way to responses that positioned the gif as a work of art and/or a learning tool. For myself, as I read responses and collect resources, I keep thinking about the emotional responses they generate both when I make them and when I watch them. Why make one at all? “They can disrupt patterns of thought and play havoc with our idea of what a ‘story’ is.” say some. “They are only one of ten concepts in the Assignment Bank. I encourage creativity wherever and whenever it bolts its lightning to the ground, including gifs, but lets not oversell them!”

Below are the tweets I have had so far. What is interesting is that the conversation continues, some of us in DS106 love them, others are neutral, others hate them and we keep talking.

Some of us are concerned with the potential health issues from making certain types of gifs,

How to flash safely?

Some of us are starting to find our own way through an answer of sorts, which may always stay as work-in-progress

John Jonshston published his thoughts here as a result of our conversations on G+:

Why Gif?

I am thinking I need an art appreciation course to be able to express the value of what I consider to be a unique art form.

Meantime I cannot stop looking at this.

I feel proud of my achievement making this fast cut gif. I have now started tagging some on Tumblr as #gifart. A big change for me since entering DS106 last year – I was only planning to make digital artefacts. I am a psychologist not an artist.


I tried a while back to answer the question: Are animated gifs art? Creating a kinetic typography short film from an Alan Levine quote. When I started DS106 I had a fairly negative view of these particular artefacts. Hearing what Alan had to say about their value changed my mind.

Each time I work on one I experience what he refers to above. Isolating the moment is what makes it worth the effort. This week I read something that adds to its appeal for me

I responded to Michael who sent through the above on Twitter,

I have also started to do a bit of research. Learnt about the Kuleshov effect and feel there is a connection between the appeal of animated gifs to some and the essence of what it shows.


Images in motion have fascinated human being for far longer than its instantiation in the animated gif.

155 Years Before the First Animated Gif, Joseph Plateau Set Images in Motion with the Phenakistoscope

There is a research project going on trying to unpack the ‘non-verbal’ language of the animated gif. Might we be saying in a near future: do you speak gif?

Go to the site and try it yourself, I am not impressed with the choice of gifs but I like the idea of finding ways to understand more how we react emotionally to them.

Some people are now learning the technique of animated giffing an using it for very practical purposes. The interesting thing about this example is that the writer says that words, still pictures, other media had not helped him explain the process. He was able to do something with the animated gif that other means did not allow. A language? This for me connected with something else. The idea that we can use animated gifs to do more than just isolate a moment of life as is, we can create the impossible,

Peter Pan Would Make Great Animated GIFs

Michael says,

“So never mind the endless perfect moment, loop a portal to the impossible.”


The assignments on DS106 are many,

There are presentations at conferences exploring the history, the medium as an art form that has evolved,

From this,

To this,

It is being used for film analysis. Making a full movie gif requires in-depth understanding of a film/movie.

Jim Groom is working on integrating the animated gif into a curriculum centred around film analysis

There are some more resources here.

Technical help, examples and explanation put together by the University of Mary Washington, the physical home of DS106.

I have started a Tumblr just for my gifs.

I was learning about styles in art and I read:

Style is both general and very individual. Just as every person has a unique handwriting, every person’s art has a unique style. Some big general categories are Realistic (photographic), Expressive (less realistic with lots feeling), Fantastic (surrealistic) (real but impossible – as in a dream), Formal (very orderly and controlled), Nonobjective (without subject matter), Abstract (not realistic). Of course since every individual is unique, these are often combined and there are many sub categories as well.”

I guess that part of the reason why animated gifs create such strong but often polarising reactions is because each person’s art has a unique style and what we like is filtered through what we value in art and life.

I have a sense that my ‘quick post’ may well turn into a book or a website ‘All about gifs’?

May be I had better remember a story I once read.

The Publishing Process in GIF Form

And I had to add this one as it is one of my favourite animated gifs. You will have to wait until I have learnt about art appreciation for me to tell you why and not feel silly 🙂

There is also Gif TV of course!

I will just keep adding resources here as I research the animated gif.

and more from him,

“It’s a more organic and intuitive medium to relate an experience – more so than a photo or a video. Think of how we recollect memories: close your eyes and think of something from your past. You don’t see a frozen still image – you see GIFs! Even when we dream at night we see fragments of events that collectively create some kind of narrative which we assemble into a story when we wake up. Even when we daydream we don’t watch a full-feature uninterrupted film in our heads – we think in fragments, often non-linear. ” ELLE MULIARCHYK

“The philosopher Daniel Dennett stresses the essential ‘gappiness’ of the various ‘multiple drafts’ of consciousness (1991). According to him, it is an illusion that we experience a unified and uninterrupted stream of consciousness.” A Palmer on Universal Minds.

“Every time I seem to exist, this is just a temporary fiction and not the same ‘‘me’’ who seemed to exist a moment before, or last week, or last year. This is tough, but I think it gets easier with practice” S. Blackmore

Why we love repetition

And Audio Illusions

Libraries creating gifs

Chinese Film Gifs

Perfectly looped gifs

Ancestors of modern gif

Say it with gifs

Artists turn gifs into careers

Historic photos into gifs

New Hive

More New Hive

and more

Update 2017 – Resources for those who enjoy app giffing

I am enjoying using ImgPLay Usually apps make gifs that are too large so you cannot use them without editing in Photoshop of Gimp. This one seems to produce decent sized gifs and offers useful choices for set up that are usually only available in photo editors.

Mosh.io is a current favourite. The ios app is coming soon. This the most fun I have had with an app for a while. It is a glitch gif application – so if glitch art is not your thing, it may not be for you.

If you want to learn about Glitch Art. there is only one human I reccommend for that. Nick Briz.

And Net Art Rocks is his latest production. It is on my list of coursed to do to up my craft.

And many of the resources I have learnt about to make internet art, come from this wonderful artist and human: Ryan Seslow. He is always trying out new platforms and testing the limits of app mixing. Find him online and learn from him.

Some more platforms Ryan has introduced me to – New Hive And a review

My absolute favourite at the moment is Assembly. There is a free version but it is limited. It seems to also only be available for ios for now. In the free version you can make assets which you can then use in animated gifs or other web art. If you get the paid version, you can record your creative process and this can make awesome gifs.

Ryan has written about this app on his blog. And you can follow him on Instagram to see some lovley video tutorials of how he is using the app to create amazing icons.

Finally, here is a video from Michael Bransons Smith on this tutorial.

Michael’s YT channel is a cornucopia of resources for making animated gifs and other net art. Enjoy getting lost in there to. And that is all for now, folks. Thanks to @dogtrax for asking the question and motivating me to update this awesome list of giffing resources for #CLMOOC peeps. I leave you with a latest gif from @gifadog on Tumblr.


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