Sunday, March 06, 2011

Thoughts on Tumblr. Tumblr is a short-form blogging platform. It's like Twitter in that it enables users to custom-build their online community by 'following' other users. Following doesn't have to be reciprocal. All these blog posts appear in a central stream on the 'dashboard', but rather than prioritising text, Tumblr emphasises images (especially memes and animated GIFs), videos, streaming mp3s and quotes.

Unlike older blogging platforms such as Blogger and WordPress, and even social networks including MySpace and Facebook, interactivity on Tumblr doesn't take the form of commenting on individual posts. Instead, Tumblr users invite, and will answer, 'questions' from their followers or even from anonymous readers. Posts also build debate and commentary when they're 'reblogged' by other Tumblr users, who can add their own remarks. Finally, Tumblr enables posts to be 'liked'. All this interactivity is catalogued on the original post in the form of 'notes'.

There are all sorts of ways to use Tumblr. I didn't really see the point of it and only got on board because I decided to start a hipster-related blog, and I figured that Tumblr is where hipsters blog. But it's interesting in the way it combines a blogroll and a real-time RSS feed, and cross-pollinates content that you mightn't have stumbled across yourself.

I can see that some people like to use it as a scrapbook of the little things they encounter in their online life, or as a way to bookmark interesting things to come back to later. As I've mentioned, there are also lots of meme Tumblrs, many of them using the "Fuck Yeah [insert very specific topic]" formula. There's also lots of TV and movie fan culture.

I'm still not a Tumblr native, because I mostly post text. I'm also constantly frustrated that I want to comment directly on another post but don't want to post that commentary as a question or an item on my own Tumblr.

I'm realising that the point of Tumblr really isn't to generate and display original content, but rather to assemble and recontextualise pre-existing material. I am trying really hard to view this as creative, but it's a struggle. I mainly get followed by people in their late teens, whose Tumblrs are a stream of vague, angsty images, like this:

Also, a lot of the imagery I see there is of skinny, listless, half-naked alt-model types:

It can get quite depressing to see this kind of imagery posted repeatedly without commentary. It leaves you wondering about the Tumblr user's affective relation to the image. Do they find it erotic? Funny? Romantic? Cool? Aspirational?

My overall impression is that Tumblr is about expressing yourself without being articulate. There's a value to this, I suppose, if you feel that an image, a quote or a song expresses something better than you can yourself, but personally I find it quite boring and alienating to silently accumulate aphoristic imagery as a performance of self.

Oh well, guess that's why I'm writing lots of words using another blogging platform.

I suppose it relates to NLP work where some people are visual, some auditory and some kinesthetic. I suppose if you add in the inarticulate society that technology has spurned, we are going to see less and less of the written word.

Good on you for making it happen though.

Technology can work for us, such as in the Lee Majors Bionic Hearing Aid Device. So all is not lost.
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