Guest Talk: Never Gonna GIF You Up, with Kate Miltner & Tim Highfield, Wednesday, 9/13, 7-8:15pm

Topic: Never Gonna GIF You Up: Analyzing the Cultural Significance of the Animated GIF

The animated Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is a digital file format with a long history within internet cultures and digital content. Emblematic of the early Web, the GIF fell from favor in the late 1990s before experiencing a resurgence that has seen the format become ubiquitous within digital communication. While the GIF has certain technical affordances that make it highly versatile, this is not the sole reason for its ubiquity. Instead, GIFs have become a key communication tool in contemporary digital cultures thanks to a combination of their features, constraints, and affordances. GIFs are polysemic, largely because they are isolated snippets of larger texts. This, combined with their endless, looping repetition, allows them to relay multiple levels of meaning in a single GIF. This symbolic complexity makes them an ideal tool for enhancing two core aspects of digital communication: the performance of affect and the demonstration of cultural knowledge. The combined impact of these capabilities imbues the GIF with resistant potential, but it has also made it ripe for commodification. In this talk, we will discuss the GIF’s features and affordances, investigate their implications, and outline their broader significance for digital culture and communication.

Kate Miltner is a PhD Candidate at Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has a BA in English (cum laude) from Barnard College and received her MSc in Media and Communications (Merit) from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Kate's research agenda is situated at the intersection of technology, identity, culture, and inequality, and her work has appeared in the peer-reviewed journals Social Media & Society, International Journal of Communication, First Monday, Feminist Media Studies, and Mobile Media and Communication. Her research has also been featured in Wired, Slate, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Time, Al Jazeera, and the BBC.

Tim Highfield is Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow in the Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology. His fellowship project is “Visual cultures of social media,” and he is the author of Social Media and Everyday Politics (Polity, 2016). His research examines the intersections between everyday digital communication, digital cultures, popular culture, play and humor, and politics. Tim’s work has been published in peer-reviewed journals including New Media & Society, Information, Communication & Society, Communication Research and Practice, Social Media + Society, and International Journal of Communication.

Dr. Ioana Literat, Assistant Professor of Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design, will introduce the guest speakers and moderate the Q&A.

This event is co-sponsored by TC's Media and Social Change Lab (MASCLab), in collaboration with the Visual Research Center.

Please rsvp with your interest and details by Monday, September 11th. Refreshments will be served.

Where: Russell 306

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To request disability-related accommodations contact OASID at oasid@tc.edu, (212) 678-3689, (212) 678-3853 TTY, (646) 755-3144 video phone, as early as possible.

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