morgandawn: (Zen fen lanning Green)
[personal profile] morgandawn
After blogging about how technology reshapes our communities and culture (allowing some aspects to thrive and others to falter), part of the conversation on tumblr migrated to the discussion of how fans build communities, how culture is created and how they communicate  their expectations of how to operate within those communities and cultures to one another. But before I repost my part in this discussion below, let me offer some context.

I  came into fandom just as fans began migrating from print onto the Usenet and mailing lists. A large portion of our time was discussing whether fans - especially slash fans -- should even be online, let alone visible.  We also had to quickly come up to speed on netiquette and translate  the preexisting "rules" into ones that worked for our fan community where the specter of copyright infringement loomed large. Then, when fandom exploded over the Internets,  spilling out of mailing lists to forums and blogs and websites, we again wrestled with issues, many of which were driven by the vagaries of the technology platforms we were using: When was it OK to respond to someone's blog post? When was it OK to post a story without warnings? When was it OK to leave feedback - and where? Was it OK to post a story in parts?  When were we expected to put text behind a cut? When was it OK to use someone's icon? How to credit icons? Was it permitted to create a rec list? A rec list in your own blog? A rec list on delic.ious? Could I use RSS to read someone's blog somewhere else besides LJ?  If someone friended me, did I have to friend them back? How to unfriend someone? When to lock a post and why? 

The list has been endless and quite often people  felt frustrated because what was so obvious to them was not obvious to everyone else.  Charged phrases like  "ethics" and "morals' and "universal rules"  have been used. We have often sounded like a community of mono-centric tunnel dwellers.

As fandom migrated to Twitter and Tumblr and Instagram and Wattpad, none of this has changed. The "rules" on these platforms are not intuitive, are fluid and of course vary across groups of fans. But we still suffer from tunnel vision.

So when the topic of universal Tumblr rules came up here, I gathered some thoughts I'd seen floating around and summarized them.


What I take away from this [post] is that Tumblr contains multitudes of communities that do not - and for practical reasons - cannot share the same norms. We ran into many of the same how come you don’t see the fandom world the same way I see it” discussions on LJ when we were trying to hash out the “rules”. On Tumblr though, the fluidity of the platform and the built in reblogging means that the communities intersect more easily.  Without the privacy tools of LJ or the gate-keepers of closed mailing lists, the only “tool” available to us is to expect other users to understand and follow our unwritten rules. Which of course is doomed to fail.

In addition, some of Tumblr users “rules” are based on a platform that itself keeps changing.  For example, I learned today that in the past untagged posts could not be found by Tumblr’s search engine. So untagged post = semi private. But Tumblr’s search engine has changed and they now pick up phrases in posts not just tags. If you are using add-ons like xkit that new search box may not show up. So the more long-time Tumblr users are confused when new faces show up on their untagged posts. And the new faces are confused at the resulting freak-out.

Then there is the scary nature of the Tumblr platform itself - anything that you post can, by the very nature of how the platform is designed, be reblogged, linked and/or responded to.  But   because there is no ability to lock or delete or edit a post once it has been reblogged, the entire discussion, other’s responses, even your follow-on responses to their responses are lost to you. Even worse, you cannot easily track the multiple discussion pathways.  You cannot chase the white rabbit because there are hundreds of white rabbits hopping all over the place and OMG is that a caterpillar? What does that have to do with anything I said?”

But this debate about everyone should know my Tumblr rules” reminds me of when we were hashing out how fandom (a formerly closed society) should use LJ.  We were originally so very strident “My Blog! My Rules!”seeing our blogs as privately owned spaces. But then triggers warnings discussions happened and that too shifted. We had a responsibility to warn - or to at least warn if we were not warning. To be a member in good standing meant you had to start treating your unlocked blogs posts as more of communally posts (locked blog posts were a different matter). I am not saying I agree with this cultural shift, but I can see echoes in today’s discussion. 

It is as if we keep wanting intimacy and connection but have the need to control the pace and scope and direction all at the same time we’re hurtling down a technological slope that was not built for our use. No wonder we’re flailing again and again. Fandom needs to reset its expectations and either build a platform that is more customizable for its needs or start investing in some good sledding gear. 

But it also occurred to me that perhaps even technology cannot overcome this profound cultural shift.  I came across this post today that argues that once technology created a truly global platform, our interactions were fundamentally changed*:

I think we’d be better served thinking of fandom as what Mary Pratt calls a “contact zone,” which she defines as:

 “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power”

I think this extends to virtual spaces like Tumblr or Twitter, where discrete ‘communities’ are increasingly unfeasible …. I think we’re not a community - we’re a LOT of people who have one thing in common, and probably a lot of other things not in common, and I think it’s easy for us to forget the latter part of that when we think about - and concern ourselves with - the idea of “fandom” as “community.” We will not always agree, and so the question becomes one of what we do next…..”

Her suggestion:: Create or find smaller sites off Tumblr for conversations that require a greater degree of mutual understanding and a shared/common language to really progress. ….. Don’t respond to trolls, because they have a different MO altogether. I ignore assholes on the street, so I ignore them here, and do my best to keep them out of my backyard. I think those are all good tactics for engaging online, and they’re ways to make sense of Tumblr in all its infinite diversity. 

Because I do think there’s value in being on Tumblr in all its infinite diversity. I’ve learned more about sexuality, gender, class, race - I mean, you name it - in my year and a half here than I have in years of living out in the world, because here I come into contact with people I might never speak to otherwise, and all because we have this one shared thing. I think the contact is critical - but that we have to understand that it’s the nature of contact with people and ideas outside our own experiences to be a bit fraught with conflict and, as Pratt says, grappling..”

TLDR version: We are multitudes. I’d better get used to it. In the meantime, cake anyone?

*And not just for fandom. Go anywhere online and you will see the conflict between these various contact zones.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-28 07:10 am (UTC)
aerye: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aerye
TLDR version: We are multitudes. I’d better get used to it. In the meantime, cake anyone?

Well said. ::g::

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-28 11:47 am (UTC)
tazlet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tazlet
Thanks for the overview.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-28 02:24 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
Thank you for posting this, and for the earlier posts.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-28 07:36 pm (UTC)
stewardess: (Default)
From: [personal profile] stewardess
Great summary of the issues. Because we are multitudes and will remain so, there will never be a single set of rules, so I fall back on addressing online conflict at the individual level.

If I reblog someone's post and it turns out they didn't want me to, then I delete my reblog. If I accidentally reblog a repost of someone's art, I delete my reblog of the repost. It comes down to: Has an individual been upset or hurt by my actions? and What can I do about it?

A friend uses the "stepping on someone's foot" example. If you accidentally stand on someone's foot, and they yell "Ow you're standing on my foot," you immediately stop standing on their foot, and say, "I'm sorry I stepped on your foot." You don't say, "Hey you shouldn't have put your foot there. We didn't put our feet there in the old days."

I'm referring only to fellow fans, of course. If J.J. Abrams says something disgusting in Twitter, and later wants people to stop talking about it, too bad. I'm going to screencap that shit and put it everywhere. I would also not stop talking about a fan doing harm to others, by say organizing a fake fan convention and absconding with the cash.

While I don't think Tumblr users can have an expectation of privacy (because the platform doesn't support privacy), that doesn't really matter when it comes down to conflict between me and another Tumblr user. I will always do what I can as an individual to comply with an individual Tumblr user's request.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-28 07:37 pm (UTC)
stewardess: (pros bodie wince by the_ped)
From: [personal profile] stewardess
A side note regarding Tumblr and privacy:

Unlike LiveJournal and other blogging platforms, Tumblr keeps your content "alive" if it terminates your account. All my original posts under "stewardish" are still on Tumblr, circulating as reblogs. I can do nothing to those posts. I can't delete them or change them. Searching for "stewardish" on Tumblr will not bring up any of the original posts, but Google search does, in reblogged form. Makes me really glad I never posted a selfie I thought I could delete later.

Presumably Tumblr wipes out all of the content of some terminated blogs, including reblogs, when the blog was a criminal enterprise, as opposed to my termination for DMCA bullshit.

I have been considering contacting Tumblr and requesting they delete my original posts entirely, just to see what would happen. My guess is the terms of service says they don't have to.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-28 07:38 pm (UTC)
stewardess: (dc batman robin flail by jempuu at LJ)
From: [personal profile] stewardess
Yet another side note, this time about Tumblr searches:

Searches within Tumblr now supporting searching post content, not just tags, was just introduced in May of 2015, but many people think it has been around longer due to a widespread reporting error.

In October of 2013, Tumblr added the ability to search for multiple tags at once. News services such as the Daily Dot and Digital Trends mistakenly reported the change as allowing searches of post content as well. The mistaken phrase repeated everywhere was Searching for “government shutdown” now returns posts tagged #government shutdown or that mention “government shutdown.”.

I blogged about the reporting error at the time, and contacted Tumblr support about it. Tumblr did nothing about correcting the error. It turned out the original announcement on Tumblr was the source of the error, and the 2013 announcement remains uncorrected.

Mentioning this because the content search is so new, and previous announcements about it were bogus, that there may be some serious confusion about it.

In Tumblr fandom culture, content search was considered very bad news because it would break the "don't tag your hate" rule, which is: if you hate a show or an actor, and make a post like, "This actor is fugly and untalented and everyone who likes them is fugly," you do not use the show name or actor in the first five tag slots. That way fans of said actor or show can search the tag and not see hate. The problem wasn't that hate existed; it was that fans who searched the show or actor name tag might find mostly hate, and some hate was racist, sexist, or transphobic (Elementary haters hit all three).

Avoiding tagged hate on Tumblr is an ongoing effort, both within fandom and without, with special tags being adopted to screen out haters (for instance, the Elementary fandom adopted the tag "elementarysquee" to avoid haters). The tagged hate problem is much greater than fandom, of course; search the tag "feminism" for depressing examples.

But if people can search on content, all the hate posts are going to turn up, because the post content will contain the actor or show name, even when the tags don't.

Outside of fandom, the hideous Tumblr account "creepshots" became the target of a sort of reverse tagged hate effort, when folks started posting random science facts and tagging them "creepshot." People looking for revealing photos of women taken without the women's consent were very confused by the Science.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-28 09:15 pm (UTC)
stewardess: (nf bunnies made for me by bunnysquee)
From: [personal profile] stewardess
omigod another sidenote:

I'm seeing comments on Tumblr such as "I never heard of the 'no tags means don't reblog' thing." My guess is that those folks are not following bunches of extremely young people on Tumblr.

I follow-back hundreds of young people on Tumblr, some of whom post extremely personal stuff, and who have been attacked by griefers. If your Tumblr experience is mostly following folks you've known for years on LiveJournal or DreamWidth, you are unlikely to see that happen.

Folks like you and me, ancient people who have been on the Internet since the 90s and have been through several online privacy ordeals already, immediately understood Tumblr to be a privacy nightmare, and treated it as such. Ancient people are less likely (I think) to post the kind of personal content Tumblr tag griefers look for, such as worries about body image, does this person I just met like me, etc.

But if you're 13-25 or so, the notion of bad things happening because you share your Skype name or post a selfie on Tumblr may not occur to you, especially because most of your peers are doing it. While I'm long past it, I can relate to that feeling of "everybody is doing it" invincibility; when I was a teenager in the 1970s I went streaking a few times.

Also a result of ancient-ness: when one of my Tumblr posts gets a negative or creepy comment, I click on the "ignore" X for the person and completely forget their existence five seconds later. I delete unpleasant anon messages immediately, too. After twenty years on the Internet, I just don't react to that stuff. Emotionally, it's like throwing away the junk mail I get every day. I'm not all "Fuck you Safeway coupons!" But if I was 13-25 right now, I would undoubtedly be doing what my peers were doing.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-29 02:17 am (UTC)
saraht: "...legwork" (Default)
From: [personal profile] saraht
I don't say this to hate on Tumblr, but if the fannish community is using a tool that effectively dissolves community, that doesn't augur too well for the future, does it?


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