Abidin, Crystal; Katrin Tiidenberg & Natalie Ann Hendry – tumblr

  • tumblr. This word is pointing towards a social media platform. According to the authors Katrin Tiidenberg, Natalie Ann Hendry & Crystal Abidin of the book “tumblr”, the social media platform had three stages: “[we tell the story of tumblr] when it was an independent company (2007-12), when it was owned by Yahoo! and the corporations that susequently bought it (2013-18), and, finally, when it was most recently sold to Automattic (2019-time of writing [the book])”. Also, three actors revealed to be important for the evolution of the platform: 1) the followers, 2) the leaders (that could be also named as: idols, influencers or opinion leaders) and 3) the representative others (namely the shareholders and the stakeholders – for instance, its owners: David Karp, Marissa Mayer, etc). The three authors are trying to depict to what the “attention” of the followere was paying to on tumblr, why (or why not) it was hard for a leader to gain “celebrity” here, and how the owners had tried to gain a certain profit and make “commerce” with this social media platform. See image 1.
  • silosociality. According to Henri Mintzberg, any organization has silos and slabs: “if silos are vertical barriers to the horizontal flow of information in an organization, discouraging lateral mutual adjustment in favor of hierarchical direct supervision, then slabs are horizontal barriers to the vertical flow of information, from one level in the hierarchy to another” (2023:50). However, tumblr could be characterized only by silos: a space where people meet anonymously pushed by their own interests. Or, more explicitly, in the words of the three authors – Katrin Tiidenberg, Natalie Ann Hendry & Crystal Abidin: “While grain silos are usually sealed; coal, sand and silt silos are not. When we talk about silos on tumblr, we want to highlight that these are felt and imagined and experienced as somewhat sequestered from each other.” And further: “Tumblr users experience tumblr in silos that are defined by people’s shared interests (…) People within silos have put in the effort to find others, with whom they share something they consider important – an identity, a lifestyle, an attitude, love for a fictional pairing”. And this perspective of silosociality is exemplified in four chapters: in chapter 4 it could be found more about “fandom” (or what in a psychodynamic literature could be called the “glad” side of human nature); chapter 5 presents the phenomenon of “social justice” of virtual groups fighting for gender and race equality (and these groups are “sad” groups); the reader will find in chapter 6 more about the subject of NSFW (“Not Safe for Work”) where the stories turn around “sex” and “sexuality” (of course, the “bad” things of human nature); and finally, in chapter 7, the silosociality is exemplified by the “mad” features of “mental health”. See table 1
  • double nature. A reccuring theme, especially in the chapters presenting specific examples of silosociality, is the double nature of humanity. For instance, the K-pop idols are presenting a self on tumblr that is different than in real life situations: “Specific to K-pop fandoms is the notion of their idols <duality> or the belief that K-pop idols’ impeccable, suave and fierce personas on stage are in stark contrast to their actual relaxed, goofy and fun selves off-stage” (chapter 4). This duality of human nature is present even only on on-line virtual medium: the users are hidding, sometimes, their mental health problems, while other times they are making them visible for their followers. “Mental health practices are extremely nuanced on tumblr: while publicly visible and explicit mental health-related content is common, tumblr users also partake in <invisible> mental health practices, circumvent visibility to unwelcome outsiders, or reappropriate unlikely media content to express emotional challenges and make distress visible” (chapter 7). Sexuality (presented in chapter 6), in the same manner as celebrity (presented in chapter 4), has a dual nature – being expressed on-line, but suppressed off-line. “NSFW tumblr offered exactly that – a space to express usually suppressed aspects of one’s self. In this contet, it is unsurprising that our participants described their NSFW tumblr community as a <tribe>, a secret part of the house behind a hidden door, a crowded bar created solely for the purposes of therapy” (chapter 6). Finally, when discussing the gender and race issues (in chapter 5), the presentation is similar with that of mental health (shown in chapter 7). The users fighting for gender and race equality sometimes are phoney and other times are authentic – regardless if they live in on-line reality or in off-line reality: “[there are] two simultaneous meanings of social justice warrior [SJW], depending on how and where the term circulates [on tumblr]. In the first meaning, it is potentially empowering, evoking a strong warrior for global social change. Indeed, some tumblr users embrace the term and proudly label their blogs and tag posts with SJW. In the second, SJW is a pejorative take on a cartoonish, caricature figure of someone who is overly offended and overly invested in identity politics and poltical correctness. This take characterizes SJWs to only post about – not act on – social justice issues while hiding behind their pseudonymous blogs, and insincere activist version of the keyboard warrior” (chapter 5)

Table 1:

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  • Henry Mintzberg (2023): “Understanding organizations… Finally!”, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
  • Katrin Tiidenberg, Natalie Ann Hendry & Crystal Abidin (2021): “tumblr”, Polity Press
  • Akane Kanai, Crystal Abidin & Matthew Hart (2020): “The challenges of doing qualitative research on tumblr” in Allison McCracken, Alexander Cho, Louisa Stein & Indira Neill Hoch (eds): “A tumblr book. Platform and cultures”, University of Michigan Press, pp. 114-126
  • Megan Lindsay Brown & Hanna Phifer (2019): “The rise of Bell from tumblr”, in Crystal Abidin & Megan Lindsay Brown (eds): “Microcelebrity around the globe. Approaches to cultures of internet fame”, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 121-130

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