Apparently, some researchers at MIT are trying to turn GIFs into a language.
If you’ve been on BuzzFeed, Tumblr, or, well, the Internet, you’re probably already well aware of how GIFs function as a language. This post is even using GIFs to express emotions (so meta!).
But this project from MIT uses Mechanical Turk-like human labor to help quantify and categorize GIFs.
Volunteers can head over to the GIFGIF site and select which GIF best expresses a certain emotion. It’s worth a visit just to see the array of GIFs that the denizens of the Internet have created (who knew Futurama GIFs were so prevalent?).
Aside from being a cool project, I think that thinking of GIFs as a language and as a powerful (and fun) tool for self-expression can really open up some neat possibilities in the classroom. Having students do a GIF storytelling version of a project, or a GIF version of a book or a play can teach visual literacy skills, summary skills (GIFs are inherently an economical form of expression), and creative thinking.
This project can also be a great way to spark classroom discussion on how computers work, what visual search engines are all about, and how the Internet is changing how we communicate. Plus, the time you kill on Tumblr and BuzzFeed can now be written off as “lesson planning.” Win/win!