17 November 2011

A Critique of Tumblr, et al.

"You click, you punch the keys, you are ‘involved’, engulfed, deciding. You are the text, there is no-one else, no ‘author’; there is nowhere else, no other time or place. You are free: you are the text: the text is superseded." Alan Kirby, 2006, Philosophy Now

There are a plethora of social media forums where individuals can package and brand themselves, presenting their virtual avatar as a product for the world to see, hear, read, watch, respond to, "like", "poke", reblog, etc. This has greatly fueled what Alan Kirby calls the age of "pseudo-modernism" in which "pseudo-modern cultural products cannot and do not exist unless the individual intervenes physically in them." Kirby notes, "somewhere in the late 1990s or early 2000s, the emergence of new technologies re-structured, violently and forever, the nature of the author, the reader and the text, and the relationships between them."

What follows is a discussion of a few social media forums that I have started to use and my take on them.


Late night I discovered Instagram, a photo editing and sharing app for the iPhone. Instagram allows you to edit photos within the app and post them to Instagram's own forum, and/or directly to other forums such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. I have started to edit my photographs and post them on Instagram, as well as follow a few friends. Instagram places the consumer behind the lens of those they follow with minimal text and no other distractions. You see what they see, albeit an impressionistic version due to editing and filtering.


I also discovered Tumblr last night. Tumblr is a microblog that allows you to share media as well as "reblog" media you enjoy and want to pass on. Reblogging takes away the onus of media creation and places the author in more of a curatorial role; collecting social text and compiling the pieces based on (hopefully) common aesthetic quality. The consumer can follow bloggers who might not create or post original media but who have a desirable aesthetic taste.

While Instagram is exclusively a forum for photographs, Tumblr lends itself best to image sharing but additionally has the capacity for text, video, quotes, links, and audio.


Blogger, a more traditional blog forum (amazing the blog has become "traditional"), is most conducive to text, with the advantage of having a far greater capacity for customizing the layout, composition, and presentation of the webpage itself. Blogger allows for a more thought out, curated, and enclosed presentation, in the sense that there are few interlinking media streams where posts are pulled away from the framed context of the page and exhibited in isolation of the original author's lens. While the audience can comment, the original author still has near total control of the content.


All the meanwhile Facebook is a torrential media melange allowing for little to no compositional control or curated presentation, yet with the most exposure and highest frequency of feedback from "friends." Media posted to Facebook has the highest chance of being seen within minutes and eliciting feedback. Upon logging in, before a user can reach his own profile he is required to pass by a stream of his "friends'" media, in the form of the newsfeed. The volume of content in the newsfeed is overwhelming, yet I still find myself trying to pay attention to all of the disparate media nuggets like a dog chasing squirrels in the park.

So I will plan on using Facebook to see what people I know are doing with themselves and when I really want a comment on something I've created; Instagram to quickly edit and post photos; Tumblr to browse, collect, and mix images; Blogger for longer, more carefully composed, articles. 

Here are a few Instagram edited photos:

Clark Park, West Philly
 Carroll Gardens, N.Y.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

No comments: