GIFing it up in ds106

An online presentation for Designs on eLearning Conference 2012 featuring Jim Groom and Alan Levine (University of Mary Washington)

Audio recording of presentation

Who would have thought one of the most tacky of early web media types– the animated GIF of a flapping mailbox, the frantic stick-man under construction sign, the creepy dancing baby— would evolve into an art form some called “cinemagraphs”? Occupying a space between photograph and a video, this modern animated GIF rose early as a compelling form of expression in ds106, the open online digital storytelling course offered from the University of Mary Washington(UMW).

Grounded in a for-credit class at UMW, ds106 is a course where students learn to manage their own web domain as a space for creating digital art, reflecting on the process and interrogating the larger landscape of media and culture. As an open course it connects with similar courses and individuals who make it more community than course.

Animated GIFs appeared in ds106 from the start (technically a month before) inspired largely by the site If We Don’t Remember Me which captures key moments of cinema in beautifully created. It has become one of the most popular of our assignments “Say it Like Peanut Butter”. (Rather than instructors providing specific tasks, the bulk of ds106 activity is built on a collection of assignments created for and by the participants) but also expanded to include assignments for creating animated GIFs from photographsand designing animated covers of comic books.

The practice of thoughtfully designing an animated GIF parallels the idea that weaves through ds106- becoming adept at using layers for effective creation (in graphics, audio, video editing) but also in story itself. In this practice of making a cinematic animated GIF, you are tasked with identifying a key scene of a movie (and one that has a minimal amount of motion), parsing it down to the bare essentials (10 frames or less), and in a more advanced mode, isolating movement to only the minimal portions (e.g. eye motion). Are these just beautiful or might they be portals to imagining the impossible?

In this session, we will provide an overview of how this creative process mirrors the spirit of ds106, illustrated by the work our participants have created. We ask you, dear audience to bring us your most creative power and share something that you can create as an animated GIF.

These two GIFs were made by attendees of this presentation








Animated GIFs (Dec 19, 2011)



Jared Stein’s “Sleep, My Love” GIF






Jason and the Argonauts: The Seven-Headed Hydra









DTLT Rockin



“I’m Batman”















Reorienting My Compass, North by Northwest?









Scooter Story



ds106 Animated GIF Assignments

  • Say it Like Peanut Butter
    “Make an animated gif from your favorite/least favorite movie capturing the essence of a key scene. Make sure the movement is minimal but essential.”
  • Photo It Like Peanut Butter
    “Rather than making animated GIFs from movie scenes, for this assignment, generate one from real world object/place by using your own series of photographs as the source material. Bonus points for minmal amounts of movement”
  • Animated Comic Book Covers
    “Givien the popularity and ubiquity of animated GIfs on the web right now, it is time to get jiggy with them. Animate a comic book cover. “
  • More #ds106 animated GIF assignments…

ds106 Made Tutorials

Other Tutorials

More About Them GIFs



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