Iffy Gifs

One of the hot trends in academia is digital humanities. Like many trending topics it is ill defined, but it generally encompasses the study of “texts” in our digital age, as well as the use of digital tools to interrogate more traditional print and manuscript texts. Mark Liberman over at Language Log highlights one such text, a press release from the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which uses animated gifs to express its points. A quote from the release:

“House Republicans have introduced a bill that prevents the President from unilaterally shutting down the enforcement of our immigration laws. It does so by allowing state and local governments to enforce federal immigration law.

Using animated gifs to augment prose text is hardly new, but their use in a press release, especially a release from a government body, is highly unusual. I suppose such use of new media is inevitable, but one must question the wisdom of such use. The gifs certainly convey the conservative outrage at the alleged acts of the Obama administration, but their use also transforms the medium of press release from pronouncement from an august body worthy of journalistic coverage to that of a Facebook post by your crazy cousin Walter. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it that is important.

Liberman’s discussion of the gifs in the release also uses a word that is new to me when he writes, “seriously, this press release was no doubt put together by a couple of sub-millennial staffers.” Sub-millennial refers to those born after the year 2000. While I get his point, I seriously doubt that the committee actually employs teenagers on its staff. It’s more like the staffers were acting like sub-millennials. Or maybe Liberman is using the word to mean those born before the millennial generation, in other words, older people trying desperately to be hip and to rap with the youth today.

Anyhoo, I’ll leave you with this philosophical meditation on the new medium:

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