Lab 3 (Animated GIFs)


As we’ve learned, animated GIFs have been around thirty years. They are the horseshoe crabs of the Internet, living fossils. GIFs’ very primitivity is what has allowed them to survive. Since making animated GIFs requires a trivial effort these days, this lab isn’t so much about making GIFs as it is an intervention into the practice of making GIFs.


There are a ton of tools and tutorials for making animated GIFs:

  • ezGIF is probably the best tool to use for the purposes of this lab. It’s free, online, requires no experience yet lets you fine-tune your GIFs.
  • Other online tools include and GIF Maker by Giphy.
  • For editing images, like to make different frames, you can use Pixlr.
  • GIMP is an open source alternative to Photoshop that lets you have total control over GIF creation, but it requires a bit more work.


The readings from Eppink and Miltner and Highfield suggest that GIFs allow both the performance of affect and the performance of cultural knowledge, while at the same time existing as open-ended signs that can be interpreted differently depending on context. GIF genres mentioned in the articles include reaction GIFs, wobble GIFs, and cinemagraphs. To this list we could add sports GIFs (both highlight reel GIFs and fail GIFs), and fandom GIFs (which pay homage to iconic scenes in television and cinema).

If there exists a GIF canon that represents the “best” or most “popular” of these various GIF genres, then surely there is an anti-canon of GIFs that challenge or undermine these various categories.


Then let’s make one.

In this lab you will make several counter-GIFs. A counter-GIF is an animated GIF that functions the same way as a conventional animated GIF, but actually its purpose is to subvert the dominant meaning-making strategies of mainstream GIFs. For example, a counter-wobble GIF would look at first glance like a wobble GIF, but upon closer inspection it actually appears to parody or critique the concept of wobble GIFs.

You will make three GIFs total for this lab. You’ll get started in class, working with a partner, and continue on your own outside of class. Pick any three of the five categories below and make a counter-GIF version of it.

  1. Reaction GIF
  2. Wobble GIF
  3. Cinemagraph GIF
  4. Sports GIF
  5. Fandom GIF

To get started you’ll have articulate the unspoken rules and characteristics of your chosen category. Then figure out what sort of approach would undermine those rules. Exaggeration, minimization, and playing with scale are three techniques to think about. But also think about ways to challenge the performance of affect and cultural knowledge.

Lab Report

Structure your lab report like so:

Name of the Category (i.e. Reaction GIF)

Example: Embed an illustrative GIF of that category (that you’ve found from GIPHY or another source)

Counter-Example: Embed the animated counter-GIF you made.

Analysis: Explain in a paragraph how the counter-GIF works against the conventions of conventional animated GIFs in that category.

Repeat this structure two more times so that you have a total of three canonical GIFs, three counter-GIFs, and three analyses of what makes the counter-GIFs counter-.

Unlike your other labs, this lab report should be posted on your blog. That’s because you need to include your animated GIFs as part of your report. Make sure your embedded GIFs work on WordPress; the trick is to embed them as Full Size on your post (under Attachment Display Settings when you upload the GIF to your blog).

I don’t expect you to finish this lab in class. You’ll need to spend some time outside of class perfecting your GIFs. The Lab Report is therefore due by 5pm on Friday, October 6.