Log On, Log Off: Digital Karate Kid

The concept of digital storytelling is a fascinating one.

When reading “I link, therefore I am,” I was struck by how diverse digital story telling can be. I’ve taken several business courses at UMW over the years, and one of the most important rules for new businesses is to have a product that is unique enough for people to want it. It’s kind of similar to Apple releasing new iPhones all the time – it has to be unique and different enough from previous generation iPhones for people to want it!

In the realm of digital storytelling, then, I would argue that the same thing applies – digital storytelling, in order to grow and blossom, needs to prove its point to the world that it offers something that classical literature does not.

For the sake of this topic, I chose to analyze a class-suggested “Moving GIFs” version of the classic movie, Karate Kid.

Karate Kid GIF

So how is this telling a story? If you click here, you’ll be taken to a page of GIPHY. More specifically, all GIFs appeared are under the hashtag, karatekid. Although the purpose of GIPHY is not directly to “storytell,” what’s fascinating about this concept is that it gives the user access to the human perspective of the movie.

Let me be more specific. What I mean about “human perspective of the movie” is that these GIFs have been created by other users, and in the context of film GIFs, the GIFs most often portray important scenes from the movie. These scenes are ones that are valued by the public/audience and are seemingly made eternal in the form of a GIF. Take the example of the GIF above: an iconic scene when Daniel is in the karate tournament, injured. He can’t use one leg, and is forced to use the winning movie that we see above. Perhaps the most climactic part of the film, its transformation into GIF form allows it to live on eternally without users needing to go find the movie and watch it on a TV every time.

Such a concept applies perfectly the video of Kurt Vonnegut on the “Shape of Stories.” What this form of digital storytelling does is take those climactic moments that Vonnegut is speaking about, and it “immortalizes” it in an ever-running loop. The quickness of it, paired with its easier accessibility in this day and age, makes it an alternative to watching the entire movie and then reliving the moments in your head. You can’t just keep watching the movie over and over again… but with a GIF… now you can!

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Is it effective? Yes and no. I’d argue that it depends on what people want out of it. GIFs will probably never replace movies themselves. GIFs are made from longer existing videos anyways! So I don’t believe it can necessarily serve as a substitute. But if were looking at those graphs that Vonnegut drew, I find that the uniqueness and value of the product which are GIFs comes from its ability to provide people with easy access to the most important scenes of films – whether that be a scene that was very uplifting, very sad, very funny, or something else. It gives people quick access to the things they love.

And so, if this were a product review, I would give GIF storytelling a 5-star review. It has found its niche, most likely through texting, where people can relive and continue to enjoy their favorite moments.

P.S. Here’s a favorite GIF of mine 😉

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