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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall


“We’re looking for half seconds to excerpt”

– so ends this intriguing Wired article by Clive Thompson.

I’ve been pondering GIFS and other short bursts of content for the past few weeks, particularly since the illustrious Jim Groom “gave good GIF” in an #etmooc presentation a couple of weeks ago.



I’m full of questions, such as:

* does repetition change meaning?

* why are we drawn to the infinite moments – making time stand still?

* can one be GIF-literate? can you learn to think/speak in GIF? what about in 140 character tweets?

* do the best memes come from accidents, or are they meticulously planned?

* can a GIF express an previously inexpressible emotion? Is this visual perception as emotional shorthand?

* how has media “come alive” with our ability to mashup /remix/ transform?

* is cinemography really just a strand of voyeurism (and if so, is that a bad thing?)

* is something as abbreviated as a GIF or tweet capable of delivering useful information? inspiring deep thinking?

Clive Thompson of Wired explains the phenomena as

“captured evanescence, replaying tiny moments of everyday life so we could see them in a new way”

It’s this shift in what we consider valuable and poignant that I am interested in.

In his Gutenberg Parenthesis theory, Professor Thomas Pettit discusses the breakdown in categories we are now experiencing.

“The rise of the Internet breaks down some of these artificial barriers…makes us less categorical in the way we perceive the world, less panicky, less worried about distribution…Print is no longer a guarantee of truth, and speech no longer undermines truth”

For some time now I’ve been puzzled why some people don’t “get” my history-based musc video parodies , because they feel they are too brief and superficial as opposed to a full lecture, course, or textbook chapter. Um, ok. I usually explain they are not meant to replace the full lesson, but to inspire thought or interest. But I’m taking that back. Indeed, I think brevity can be more poignant, as long as it (image, phrase, or action) is


After all, we are not supposed to be force-feeding our audience with ideas, but rather attempting to light a fire, right?

If my student turned in a final assessment like mine for #edcmoc would I think any lower of her? No, I’d think she spent time SYNTHESIZING and CREATING – both time-consuming and demonstrative of understanding and critical thinking. (this is in response to a very ugly debate happening on Metafilter about my work)


Sometimes I think in tweets

My attention span has become altered by my technology use – I get fatigued when I have to read more or listen to someone speak for more than 140 characters. That might be an ever-so-slight exaggeration, but you get my drift. I also find that when I compose a presentation, for example, I think ahead (metacognition I guess) if I can “craft” any tweetable phrases.

I call this


I don’t know if this is necessarily negative or positive, it just is.

So what do you think? Can you answer any of my questions? Do you have an anecdote to share? Are we becoming a culture of quips?


Here’s a gif I just tried using a snippet from my French Revolution video


#ThomasPettit #CliveThompson #soundbiitification #etmooc #GutebergParenthesis #Tumblr #gif #cinemography #webliteracies #jimgroom #digitalliteracies #Wired

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