Using Giphy, the GIF Database We’ve Been Waiting For

Being based in Champaign-Urbana, I often chat with my long-distance friends over email and social media when we don’t have time for those long, three hour phone calls that will leave you with a sore throat and warm feelings. When you’re trying to communicate the inexpressible over email or text, the easiest way is through the use of GIFs. Needless to say, our GIF-based conversations end up being silly, and at times nonsensical. However our display of pop-cultural savvy and image-based rhetoric provides entertainment throughout the longest days.

My clear ‘need’ for GIFs is why I’m so thrilled to write about Giphy! Giphy is both an archive, search engine, and hub designed to help you find the perfect GIF for whatever you’re trying to express or convey to the digital world. Giphy is a great resource not only for personal use, but in terms of research, is an excellent database for anyone doing research on New Media, internet culture, fandoms, or time-based media.

Giphy even has a page dedicated to a curated selection of talented GIF artists, if you’re interested in the field of internet art. The variety of designs and topics shared on GIPHY are truly incredible, and also serve as a great resource for anyone studying digital communications.

Giphy fills a need for GIFs of your favorite fandom (can you guess mine?):

giphy

GIFs expressing your successes (and your childhood):

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and of course, your frustration:

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If you’re not exactly sure what type of GIF you’re searching for, check out GiphyTV, a full-screen randomized selection of GIFs from every edge of the digital sphere. If one of your talents is creating GIFs, you can upload your work onto Giphy to be used and shared by people all over the world!

You can search Giphy not only by artist, but also by category, and when you find a GIF that seems to understand you more fully than your high school friends, you can save it to your favorites for easy access. All GIFs on Giphy can be shared easily to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

While Giphy is treasure trove of stimulation, it is also a really well organized search engine. All GIFs have the option to be tagged to make them more easily searchable, and most also include a link to the original source of the GIF. Searches are also enhanced by Giphy’s use of metadata sorted via hashtags.

For example, the GIF below, featuring Bette Davis, is tagged as: #yes, #agree, #bette davis, #amen, #approve. While this is a somehwat silly example, it’s pretty awesome that affirmative gestures can be shared and expressed in so many ways! (Right, Bette?)

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Audubon’s “Birds of America” comes to life on the new Audubon digital library

Birds of America, John James Audubon’s survey of America’s winged wildlife, is now available online to the public through a revamped digital library from the National Audubon Society.

This version of Birds of America is from an 1840 ‘First Octavo Edition’ of Audobon’s comprehensive seven volume text. This archive presents both his illustrations and original, un-modified textual descriptions. Their reference not only to his encounters with birds but chronicling his travels makes this archive invaluable to those researching the life of Audubon as well.

With over 435 watercolors of North American birds, made from hand-engraved plates, access has never been so easy to the text that is now considered the archetype of wildlife illustration. Excitingly, each print is available as a free high-resolution download for personal use.

Plate 397, "Scarlet Ibis" John J. Audubon's Birds of America.

Plate 397, “Scarlet Ibis” John J. Audubon’s Birds of America.

The new website allows you to sort the images chronologically, alphabetically, or by endangered species. Accompanying each plate is a full analysis of the species, including quantitative data such as average height, weight, and wing length. This collection, however, really comes to life with Audubon’s qualitative observations about the species. The descriptions include visual identifiers of particularly species, but also the charmingly-written passages from the original publication of Birds of America. These passages not only identify the species depicted, but also discuss Audubon’s travels as he made his way across America to record his images. From these passages, interesting details such as who his traveling companions were, details of collaborative illustrations, and environmental descriptors further animate the already vivid paintings.

On plate 112, “Downy Woodpecker,” Audubon writes, “If you watch its motions while in the woods, the orchard, or the garden, you will find it ever at work. It perforates the bark of trees with uncommon regularity and care; and, in my opinion, greatly assists their growth and health, and renders them also more productive. Few of the farmers, however, agree with me in this respect; but those who have had experience in the growing of fruit-trees, and have attended to the effects produced by the boring of this Woodpecker, will testify to the accuracy of my statement.” Telling passages such as these clearly convey Audubon’s unending desire to know and understand these creatures.

Plate 112, "Downy Woodpecker," John. J Audubon.

Plate 112, “Downy Woodpecker,” John. J Audubon’s Birds of America.

Of Plate 342, Columbian Owl, Audubon writes of their behavior based on his personal interactions with them, ” The burrow selected by this bird is usually found at the foot of a wormwood bush (Artemisia), upon the summit of which this Owl often perches, and stands for a considerable while. On their being approached, they utter a low chattering sound, start, and skim along the plain near the ground for a considerable distance. When winged, they make immediately for the nearest burrow; and when once within it, it is impossible to dislodge them.”

Plate 432, "Burrowing Owl, Large-headed Burrowing Owl, Little night Owl, Columbian Owl, Short-eared Owl," John J. Audobon's Birds of America.

Plate 432, “Burrowing Owl, Large-headed Burrowing Owl, Little night Owl, Columbian Owl, Short-eared Owl,” John J. Audobon’s Birds of America.

Regardless of whether or not you are an Audubon scholar, these illustrations are a beautiful preservation of North American Birds, and are truly a joy to look through due to their unique character and capturing of details rarely seen by the eye.

Plate 93, "Sea-side Finch" John J. Audubon's Birds of America.

Plate 93, “Sea-side Finch” John J. Audubon’s Birds of America.

 

To see Audubon’s illustrations in person, stop by the reference room on the second floor of the Main Library to see plates from Abbeville Press’ 1985 facsimile.

Open Buildings: A digital archive of the World’s Built Environment

One of my favorite things to do in the summertime is take a train into Chicago and stroll around the city. I am constantly in awe of the skyscrapers that tower above me. While I can recognize such buildings as the famous Lake Shore Drive Apartments by Modernist architect, Mies van der Rohe, many of the buildings that surround me, not only in Chicago, but even here in Champaign-Urbana remain anonymous (for more information on C-U architecture, check out the architecture tours in ExploreCU). This is unfortunate, as all buildings carry a history. Accessing this history has become incredibly easy, however, with the use of a website called, Open Buildings, an online archive and forum showcasing existing buildings and conceptual architecture.

Not only is Open Buildings an excellent resource to learn about the origins of everyday buildings that surround us, but it’s also a great tool to connect with other architecture fans, firms, and professionals. Open Buildings is both an archive of architectural structures, as well as a directory of architects.

Open Buildings allows you to search for specific buildings, architects, particular building functions, and even browse through collections. Each day, the website features a different building to explore, from Airspace Tokyo to a house built for skateboarders. Open Buildings features both well-known landmarks and innovative, lesser-known designs. In addition to searching through their featured housing, Open Buildings has curated collections for users to browse as well. Collection categories range from building function (Contemporary Religious Buildings), material use (Bamboo Architecture), to groups of architectures (Architects Under 40).

Open Buildings Homepage displaying Featured building.

Open Buildings Homepage displaying Featured building.

Open Buildings also has a map feature that lets you search for buildings of interest nearby (click the image below for some landmarks in Champaign-Urbana!) but even internationally. The website keeps records of existing buildings, structures that have since been destroyed, and conceptual or unrealized architectural projects. Because of Open Building’s comprehensive survey of architectural design, this website can be of use not only to working as an architects, but student designers, urban planners, and scholars alike.

Landmark Buildings in Champaign-Urbana, IL.

Map View of Landmark Buildings in Champaign-Urbana, IL.

Users can edit building profiles to add more information and images, and connect with other users to discuss design issues. There is even a directory feature that lists over 14,000+ working professionals. After creating a free account, you can upload your own portfolio, comment on designs, and contact professional architects.

A mobile app is even available, perfect for the next time you find yourself on city streets wondering, “What is this beautiful building?”