GIFs in the wild
Through both my research and classwork, I have been deeply interested in how youth interact with media, whether they're consuming it, creating it, or critiquing it. A few weeks ago, I noticed something intriguing about how readers were writing YA book reviews on Goodreads: they were using GIFs.
The internet is teeming with GIFs, which almost seem to surface by themselves and spread in their own mysterious ways, similar to memes. On Buzzfeed, popular “articles” such as “What It's Like Being A Twentysomething With A Coworker From Hell” or “23 Real Struggles That Anyone With Jet Lag Will Understand” consist of snippets like this:
5. And eventually, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you straight-up fall asleep.
Despite all of our words and the versatility of the English language, nothing conveys emotion as succinctly as a GIF. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a GIF's value is limitless, as well as universal, understood across all languages. And on Goodreads, instead of writing long reviews, teens are choosing the perfect GIFs to express how they feel about a book.
What if, instead of choosing the perfect GIF, they could make it?
And what if that GIF was also a selfie?
how do you feel about a book?
Bookfeels, in many ways, was conceived of as a means to bridging the intersection between technology, youth, and their librarians. Through the course of my research, I quickly discovered that many teen librarians, like the generation they were trying to connect to, were experts at social media and maintained vigorous online presences. Several librarians have large followings on Twitter, and others maintain widely read websites. The Young Adult Library Services Association even runs a blog.
According to these librarians, teens rely heavily on peer recommendations. Teens are also using Tumblr, a social media microblogging platform with an emphasis on the reblogging of GIFs and pithy quotes, to discover books, bringing quotes to their librarians and asking about those books. Because of this pre-existing behavior, Bookfeels (the name is a mashup of internet-born neologisms “bookfeel” and “the feels”) is designed to exist on the Tumblr platform, connecting a local library community's readers to a wider community. Holly Black, for instance, the author of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, saw and “liked” this bookfeel:
Bookfeels is designed to exist as a physical photo booth inside of a teen room, enabling teens to easily scan a book and make a bookfeel right in the library. Moreover, it's a quick and easy way for teens to contribute their voices to their local library community. With any luck, a bookfeel just might convince someone to check out a book.
- Justin the Librarian
- ALA-YALSA blog
- Teen Librarian Toolbox
- Nicolas Rivard on GIFs (for LTK)
- GIFs, memes and liveblogs: The controversial new language of book reviewing