If you’re not using GIFs to reach & teach your community, what are you doing?
We love animated GIFs because they let us communicate so much with so little. They’re visual, recurring, and easy to share — powerful features for communicating unfamiliar concepts to an unfamiliar audience. This is why we think it’s important to learn how GIFs can be used strategically in education. We are all involved in online safety education and, following a session we co-organized on this topic at RightsCon, wanted to share what we’ve learned along the way in three posts:
- GIF JIF ZHAIF: Teaching an educational .GIF workshop at RightsCon
- If you’re not using GIFs to reach & tech your community, what are you doing?
- How to GIF
So here you go: Learn how to be creative with GIFs.
Today, most advocacy organisations working in the human rights technology space share their public work in the form of websites and online reports. And these formats serve their own important roles. But imagine this — what if you wanted to learn about privacy or online safety, and you were less familiar with technology? You may need to read dense whitepapers and policy papers. You may also need to watch educational YouTube videos, or go on a Google spree to digest these issues.
One of the most important tactics for educating the masses is being able to choose the right format for your audience. The right format can help you speak to your audience in a way that is both interesting and informative.
It could be just my generation, but I have realised that people learn more easily through repetition. And this is where GIFs can prove to be more powerful for communicating online safety concepts.
Fun way to learn process: I remember when I was a kid at school, my teacher used to say that the more you repeat the information, the better you will remember it. I didn’t really agree with this statement then, but I have come to realise its importance when we talk about learning straightforward processes. GIFs will allow you to repeat a process on information visually so that it is imprinted on your mind. For example, imagine that annoying coworker who keeps asking you the same question every other day about the same thing, but never remembers the solution? If only you could GIF it so they would never forget again!
Low bandwidth: You can say YouTube is better as it allows you to have more information for a longer time, and uses the same method for sharing screens. However, for communities like refugees and low income individuals, it is very important to design for their conditions, which demand videos that doesn’t require too much data or fast internet. Think about refugees who have just arrived to a new country and don’t have easy access to high-speed internet or women who live in a country where data is expensive. GIFs are low bandwidth friendly and are just fun!
Easy way to communicate: Unlike YouTube videos or other platforms, GIFs don’t require you to know any language (if there is no text in them!). You can simply learn by watching it play. If a picture can speak a thousand words, a moving picture can speak several more.
Safe: Unlike YouTube or any video services, GIFs can be used anonymously, without leaving a trace. Users neither need to create an account or provide any login information to be able to see and learn from GIFs. When you are designing for a demographic that is vulnerable and needs anonymity for safety, this feature can prove to be very useful. Additionally, GIFs can be shared without leaving a trace, unlike videos and text links that can be tracked. And most importantly, GIFs won’t collect information related to you or your behaviour.
Easy to Share: You can add them to a tweet, to a Google Doc, website or gitbook and make your material more fun!
Who is using GIFs for education?
Chayn is a global volunteer-run network, building openly licensed guides and toolkits to empower survivors of abuse. It’s where I spend most of my spare time! One of our most important resources is the DIY Online Safety Guide, which informs women about being online without putting oneself at risk. It’s available in 8 languages.
Our work with women experiencing stalking and abuse have shown us that being online can be stressful even when women rely on it to be connected to friends and family. Women are afraid their abusers might be able to track them, or worse, hack into their personal email and social media accounts.
Staying offline is not an empowering. It can isolate and make women more vulnerable. Instead, we designed a toolkit that helps them to learn both basic and advanced security tips and tricks to make them more confident and comfortable about being online. And we succeeded! We used GIFs to make the guide easier to follow, and more enjoyable for our readers. The ability to get a lot of information quickly, and low bandwidth, were important for our audience. That’s why we use GIFs; they are the perfect tool to communicate these tips.
Security Education Companion. As a leading organization in digital privacy, and free speech, the EFF has created an enormous resource called the Security Education Companion that is full of lessons, tips, and materials to assist a beginner digital security instructor. And, you guessed it, they offer educational GIFs to help communicate concepts around encryption, two-factor authentication, and password management.
These GIFs are intended to help instructors by giving them easy-to-use and has recurring examples in their lessons. And because many of these GIFs do not include screenshots of any specific software, they can be used to communicate broader concepts in a way that applies across several tools.
SaferSisters (Follow #SaferSisters!)
We love the simplicity of SaferSisters. SaferSisters is a feminist security project featuring online safety GIFs that teaches women how to navigate the Internet without fear. Each GIF uses few colors and images that *pop*. This keeps their files relatively small and easy to share on social media, even though they contain a lot of information. We also like that the message focuses on women, and includes women from different backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicities, and sexualities. They go out of their way to represent all women in every GIF.
GIFs can also be helpful in step-by-step instruction. Martin Shelton writes articles on security for journalists and media activists, and demonstrates how to set up encryption tools with GIFs. This is helpful because it illustrates how easy it is to use encryption tools, and keeps readers engaged. Check out his blog on how Wire works.
Do you know other amazing people who use GIFs? Or do you have a brilliant idea about using GIFs for your outreach? We would love to know about them! Respond to this post and we will add the best to this list.