Say It with a GIF: A Discussion on Animated Book Reviews

Last November, Salon.com published an article by Laura Miller entitled GIFs, memes and liveblogs; the controversial new language of book reviewing.  Miller explores the customer review phenomena as it applies to books on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com. Although both web sites have reviewer guidelines, amateur book reviewers have a considerable amount of freedom to express their opinions to an international audience. Hub bloggers Carla Land, Becky O’Neil, and I share our reactions to the brave and sometimes brutal new world of customer book reviews.

What is it that drew you to this topic?

Carla: What drew me to this topic was that I think, as a blogger, that it takes a certain creative element to be able to combine words and pictures together to convey an idea. I know as librarians and educators we all love the written word, but there’s something about Jean-Luc Picard with his head in his hands that says to me, “This is an epic fail” better than actually saying “This is an epic fail.”It isn’t always flippant- sometimes it can be a very sweet or poignant image that says more than words can. The whole concept intrigues me!

Diane: Agreed! Images are so effective at capturing attention, and technology has made them increasingly available. In her Salon article, Miller writes, “Perhaps, though, what’s unsettling about even the most inventive use of GIFs and images is the way they evoke emotion and subjectivity rather than ideas and analysis.” One might argue that emotion and subjectivity have always been a part of reader response, and that words traditionally limit such responses.

Becky: I was drawn to the topic because I find visual culture very interesting, and have definitely noticed the use of GIFs on Goodreads especially, but would never expect that kind of review to become the way books are reviewed. Maybe I’m old-school that way! I see GIFs used to great comedic effect in a “picture is worth a thousand words” kind of way (the Capt. Picard facepalm is a perfect example).

 

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