So some of my Tumblr-using friends have been on the side of me returning to Tumblr. I have been very critical of Tumblr, on Tumblr itself and elsewhere. Nothing boils my blood more than to see a piece of work shared and reshared with all sourcing and credit either removed, or worse, manipulated. I deleted all my posts (well, moved them to my own blog at krisstraub.com) in a big huff a couple months back.
I feel like the attribution problems are a huge part of Tumblr’s culture, probably unintentionally so. If you subtract the original content producers, the artists and writers — and I’m including the people doing fanart or even meme-like presentations of ideas among those artists and writers — if you subtract them, what you end up with is tens of thousands of curated blogs. It’s people assembling fragments of culture that they like, want to share, want to keep track of. It is true curation, a personal stylebook. You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their Tumblr and seeing what they want to be associated with, what they identify with.
I think somewhere down the line, in our quest to exalt personal identity, we have blurred the line between curation and creation. And I think this is the fundamental reason why sources get changed or left off. Because over time, the value is in the spread of one’s own curation — there is inherent value in being observed as a tastemaker.
Is an expression of taste, through others’ works, creation in and of itself? I don’t know. The artist in me wants to say “no,” but there are a lot of ways to make art. I guess… if the important part was the expression of taste, then there would be no need to obscure the sources. When sources and accreditation are considered unimportant, I don’t see it as sharing anymore: it becomes co-opting.
I would argue that any one of the blogs I’m critical of, that reposts without credit, that believes credit is boring and unimportant, would be furious if I created a much popular Tumblr that was a duplicate of their own tastes and reblogs, except with my name on it. Why would I want to return to a community that does little to discourage that?
And yet I keep returning to Tumblr to read, passively, what the people I like are doing. They are creating, they are actively involved in the production of content I enjoy. I want to share it, for their sake! I just want to make sure that, in the act of sharing it, someone down the line doesn’t see fit to scrape their name off and pretend like they found it in some secret garden on the internet that they are the gatekeeper of.
So my reason for not posting to Tumblr anymore is that I felt the use of the service innately supported an infrastructure that codified and celebrated mis- or non-attribution. But my options are:
1) to continue to just read and never post anything, except for the occasional vitriolic reblog of another artist’s plea for credit, or
2) to actively contribution and try to make this corner of Tumblr, which I like, nicer.
Maybe I’ll try a little more of (2) and see what it does.