ELECTION 2012
12:58 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

A New Way to See the Presidential Debate: In Gifs

Not sure you have the attention span to watch the entire presidential debate? Don’t worry — the debate will be live-giffed. Fans of Tumblr and Twitter devotees are likely familiar with the gif, a compressed file that looks like a still image come to life. But while the gif is usually a lighthearted medium, reserved for capturing the humor of dogs falling into puddles, it’s making it’s transition to hard news thanks to a collaboration between Tumblr and The Guardian.

Like the practice of live-tweeting, live-giffing will distill the debate into easily digested tidbits that are simple to share through social media.The process is simple. During the presidential debate on Oct. 3, a team of Tumblr staff and collaborators will transform the quotes, gestures and facial expressions of President Obama and Gov. Romney into gifs in real time. As the gifs are created, they will be posted on a specially created Tumblr page, Gifwich

If you’re planning to follow the gifs, be forewarned. The Gifwich blog will be constantly updated and play host to hundreds of debate gifs. For those trying to pay attention to the live debate and the live-gif process, it may be overwhelming. Curious minds looking for only the best gifs should turn to The Guardian’s liveblog or Tumblr’s Election blog. During the debate, Guardian reporter Adam Gabbatt will select the most compelling gifs and post them on each website.   

Tumblr and The Guardian’s gif coverage of the presidential debate won’t be the first time the gif has encapsulated newsworthy events. During the 2012 Summer Olympics, news outlets such as The Atlantic posted gifs of Gabby Douglas’ gold medal performance and other compelling events. But the sheer mass of gifs forecasted to be produced, as well as their instant availability on the internet, set Tumblr’s approach apart.

Tumblr also plans to live-gif the Oct. 11 vice presidential debate, an Oct. 16 town meeting and the Oct. 22 presidential debate on foreign policy. By Election Day, live-giffing may be the new way to reach voters. Tumblr and The Guardian certainly hope so.