Spreading Cultural Awareness Through GIF

Spreading Cultural Awareness Through GIF

GIFs are short, animated images which offer the meaning a video would but without the audio or size of a video file. We learned in this article that although most can be funny, others can also be used or categorized to spread racist, hateful, or hurtful imagery.

I found a neat article by Mashable, however, showing a positive example of GIF’s influence in which GIFs are used to celebrate and honor black culture and history.

GIPHY, a leading database company which holds the majority of the internet’s GIFs, ran a program for the month of February honoring Black History Month. GIPHY dedicated its efforts to providing “users with GIFs showing the black American experience”, which it hoped would fill the void in black-cultural representation online.

The works published in the first wave highlighted black leaders and offered descriptions of their influence like “Toni Morrison is one of the most prominent literary icons of the 20th century, and rightfully so, as she is the first Black woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature.” And while some were reuploads, they also took the time to illustrate some new GIFs to add to the database.

Here’s an example of one of their curated GIFs which highlight personal, cartoon illustrations of women doing their hair. “The company specifically hired black artists to illustrate portrayals of black culture and hair beyond just aesthetics.”

Another addition to the GIPHY database were re-categorization of GIFs of black celebrities in the present world with supportive or inspiring text underneath the person or a loop effect of them smiling, laughing, or making a peace sign.

As the article notes “The work to diversify the GIF archive may be underway, but it’s far from over — and definitely won’t end on Feb. 28.” And they’re right. I use this article not to diminish the problem at hand but show a small example of the positive effect GIFs can cause. The article on GIPHY’s racist categorization problem was written in August, 6 months after GIPHY’s Black History Month project, but GIPHY hasn’t commented on or fixed the problem yet.

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