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The Sound of GIFs

A new podcast

What to make of GIFbites isn’t quite clear, not yet. It’s billed itself as a weekly podcast, each episode no longer than 15 seconds, and its name makes its visual orientation evident, even if the association between image and sound is less so.

There are images; a different one accompanies each of the podcast’s two initial episodes. The audio to the first podcast is a description of the image itself: — “emerging from a Golden Girl like a cut-and-paste ghost perambulates a long-haired white wolf bear …”

The second is non-verbal, a mumble of an industrial rhythm that seems to mirror the dentil pattern of the track’s image.

The project brings to mind something discussed here last year: “Wondering if there’s a sonic equivalent of (or parallel to) an animated GIF, and if so what it is”; perhaps the series is a matter of media translation. The project is by Daniel Rourke, whose home on the web is at machinemachine.net, where he makes the following comment about format agnosticism: “I don’t feel the need to distinguish between words, links, videos and images. This website is my attempt to play between their differences.”

The tracks were originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/gifbites. Audience submissions are invited.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , / Comments: 6 ]

5 Comments

  1. tom moody
    [ Posted December 13, 2012, at 6:09 am ]

    The project highlights one of the awkwardnesses of multiple media ideas involving GIFs. Soundcloud makes the sound easily playable, with an accompanying animation showing a cursor moving through the file. But Soundcloud, like Facebook, disables GIFs from moving (right?), so Rourke has to post a link to the GIF, which loads in a separate page or tab. The ideal platform for a project like this would allow the GIF animation and an embedded audio player on the same page (as you had last year). No biggie, I just get annoyed when I see frozen GIFs.

  2. therourke
    [ Posted December 13, 2012, at 9:17 am ]

    Thanks for the comments.

    At first I wondered whether to post the GIFs at all, but instinct told me that missing them out of the format would be crazy. I have just setup a tumblr for the podcast/project. I think the format works way better this way.

    Really looking forward to 52 weeks into GIFbites (13 whole minutes of GIFbite goodness)

  3. tom moody
    [ Posted December 15, 2012, at 7:51 am ]

    It works better on Tumblr. Was happy to hear Gretta Louw’s voice pronouncing GIF with a hard G. I’m told that after the Oxford English Dictionary made GIF its “word of the year” it got the whole concept wrong by pronouncing it JIFF and only using it as a verb (as in “the teenagers jiffed Bieber throwing up onstage”).

    • Marc Weidenbaum
      [ Posted December 15, 2012, at 1:01 pm ]

      The reminds me of something. The first time I heard the word “GIF” — not saw it, but heard it, out loud — was in the early 1990s. I’m not sure when exactly, somewhere between 1990 and 1994, I’d say. A graphic designer on staff at a magazine where I worked would, after hours, trade images online after reworking them in PhotoShop. (Let your imagination run wild with that one and you’ll likely still fall short of the reality of the situation.) Anyhow, the designer referred to these images by their format, but given the context, for quite awhile I thought he was saying “gifts.”

  4. tom moody
    [ Posted December 16, 2012, at 5:36 am ]

    I think when you see the word “GIF” its closeness to gift makes you pronounce it that way. Which is why the street, in its wisdom, has it right and Wikipedia- and OED-readers (and the GIF’s original creator) have it wrong. Your story reminds me of a trip I made to Radio Shack in the early ’90s. The salesman, a pure geek, told me he was going on the internet and uploading “some images” (said with a significant look). The mental picture I had was of incredibly primitive dot matrix or ASCII porn and I felt kind of sorry for the guy.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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