26 Aug Tumblr as Collaborative Narrative
The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more’, Kenneth Goldsmith begins his book Uncreative Writing, quoting conceptual artist Douglas Heubler. In a world by now so over-saturated with images, texts, videos etc, Goldsmith proposes that the task of contemporary society is most vitally, not the creation, but the very navigation of such information. With so much at our fingertips, the very act of making a decision as to what object is worth our time and energy can ask as much of us as the object itself.
Different Social Media platforms offer different modes of interacting with people and the products of their hands. But as often as they may succeed in directing us to what we find useful, they likewise are prone to keeping us tangled in the mesh of mediums without ever really delivering the content. Put differently, the medium becomes the content at the expense of the point: you spend hours browsing pages for a new band, and you leave having just spent hours browsing pages, with no band.
If you’re a business–whether that be a restaurant or a retail outlet–social media serves us best when the ‘form’ of presentation pays its dues to the ‘content’. How you say it changes what it is, and different (and hopefully more) people will listen depending on the specifics.
Tumblr, as distinct from other platforms, is about collaborative narratives of streamlined images, text, and videos. Where Instagram offers a series of images that offer users the opportunity to locate others in single moments of their day, Tumblr encourages dialogues that extend beyond likes and four word comments. Whilst Facebook is arguably comparable in this sense, as it doubtless provides the tools for people to engage with one another in a variety of mediums, Tumblr is far simpler, and far more integrated for that fact. There is an equality of content. Activities, hobbies and interests brush shoulder to shoulder with multinational corporations, television networks and musicians. The point is less presenting a single voice to a faceless audience as it is to show how what you do is not separate from everyday life. Businesses don’t appear as distinct from origami enthusiasts and small venues. The idea is people can reblog amusing or interesting content, and, in the process, a network of multimedia discourses develop out of single ideas, creations or observations.
In a direct sense the premise lends itself to an expanding and encompassing form of neoliberal capitalism where profit motives, enthusiasm and interest collapse into the vapidity of ‘cool and funny things’. It’s insidious to see Coca Cola alongside civil and humanitarian interests, but the fact of the matter is if we don’t face up to the way people are now interacting and harness it for the right ideas and information then you’ve already lost. It’s not too optimistic to conceive of small business opportunities in the same sentence as political devolution and anti-corporatism, it just needs to navigated with careful attention to detail.
Moreover, Tumblr refines a distinct form of collectivism that has appealed to many otherwise estranged individuals with (unfortunately) unconventional interests or beliefs. ‘Tumblr feminism’ is a term coined to describe a form of feminism concerned with the inequality of women via the conversations that have developed on the site between users from all corners of the globe. Obviously it’s easy to see the problems with what it can become, but for many it offers a platform to move from the internet to more concrete and considered forms of the movement, and in therein can be a step in the right direction. The point would be to be part of a collective effort to always improve the means and ends.
Freedom of choice is indeed illusory and a distraction in current circumstances, but working outside the system of conventional forms of communication can just as helpfully be paired with working within them, in moderation. Tumblr offers users the choice to step outside the monological collage of Instagram and the Social Darwinism of Facebook into a space of dialogic pastiche that harnesses multiple mediums of expression. If you’re a business, you have the opportunity to appeal to people in the same space that they are engaged with their interests and hobbies. If you are an artist you have the tools to present a fluid and stratified story of what you are doing and what makes you want to do it. For anyone, Tumblr is a platform that can develop what you’re doing and help you to do it better by beginning a conversation where everything is on the table. Most of all, humour and intelligence wins out over the hard sell: people just won’t care enough unless you care about what you’re doing, and it shows.