03/08/2012 12:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'Animated GIFs: The Birth Of A Medium': PBS' History Of The Meme From 'Under Construction' Signs To Art (VIDEO)

If you were to take every image ever created in the Graphics Interchange Format and order the whole lot chronologically one after the other, you'd have a flickering visual timeline of the internet itself -- from a land of "Under Construction" signs and territorial waving American flags to a laboratory for smart and beautiful commentary. That's the premise of the latest episode of PBS' "Off Book" series, a web show dedicated to the cuttingest of the cutting-edge arts, such as of course, the GIF.

In the 7-minute segment, "Animated GIFs: The Birth Of A Medium," a group of hoodie/bangs-sportin' experts discuss the multi-image procrastination tool as it was once known and as its practiced today, as carefully manipulated art. They also let us know in no uncertain terms that it's pronounced "jif," not "gif" (to which we ask: can't it be both?).

Let the "Portlandia"-ish nature of the subject and the interviewees not distract you. At their best, these GIF-makers' products are beautiful and considered, as with Jamie Beck's and Kevin Burg's fashion-oriented "cinemagraphs," in which an isolated movement becomes "a magical warp of time," as Beck puts it. Her work with Burg makes up the bulk of the segment's final half, including our favorite GIF, a cinemagraph of photographer Bill Cunningham lifting his camera and putting it down at a fashion show. Check out the full segment below, and head to PBS' "Off Book" site for more episodes.


[via The Awl]