The Socratic Librarian is giving up on Tumblr. To give you an idea why, I was actually tempted to call this post “Giving up on Dumblr.” Tumblr’s easy interface of posting and sharing content seemed great at the time, but I feel like my interest in creating my own content through – typically writing in longish-form – makes it a bit hard to fit in among the Tumblr community.
That complaint might sound a bit childish – and I wouldn’t be the first philosopher to express that sentiment about his/her community – but I changed the title because I think there might be a better than ad hominem argument for it. (Wait, should I say ad bloginem?) In my search to see whether this witty little appellation had already been bandied about the blogosphere, I actually found my answer. Repeating a common complaint of typical Tumblr activity, I found a post at a blog called The Hundreds who complained of typical Tumblr activity,
“It’s just repeating what other people are doing, without any interpretation or personal input.”
But the crucial point comes next:
It’s really about curating, not creating, at that point, isn’t it?
That’s it! Tumblr is actually about curating content, not creating it. Images found on blogs, quotes from articles and speeches, samples of sounds or songs or videos; any of the curious little items one might find while surfing the Web to kill time…er, do research…and wants to share with others. So while the collective consciousness that wrote the Wikipedia article for Tumblr suggests it as just another form of microblogging, I think we can do better. “Short-blogging” sounds a little boring, “half-blogging” a little apathetic, and let’s be honest, “tumblring”and “tumblelogging” don’t exactly roll off the tongue. So I’m going to go with the following: curioblogging. It kind of helps you visualize what Tumblr might look like in physical form…
But it also tells you that people who use Tumblr are curious people: they like the experience of finding stuff and sharing it with others. (And maybe in that other sense as well.) Furthermore, it ties to an explanation of Tumblr’s rapid growth in its curatorial functions, which has become important for understanding certain developments in web technology and activity. (FYI, both curious and curate originate in the latin word curaremeaning to care for or attend to.)
The Web’s de-hierarchized, distributed network, “everything is miscellaneous” structure (thanks, David Weinberger), has created the demand for this new sort of curatorial activity to help us interact with information on the Web. Lorcan Dempsey has noted that this new type of curation is based on the “selection, organization and presentation function,” and has suggested that
Just think of what Netflix and Amazon are doing when they offer you recommendations based on your recent activity. They are not just being super-nice and helping you invest more time/money than you usually would – they are curating their MASSIVE warehouses of content and products. Michael Cairns notes the success of examples of media-type organizations like The Huffington Post, Red State and Politico, which mostly offer “curated content.” He further notes,
“In recent years content curation has emerged out of the wild, wild, west of ‘mere’ content…The buzz word ‘curation’ does carry with it some logic: As the sheer amount of information and content grows, consumers seek help parsing the good from the bad. And that’s where curation comes in.”
In this way, Tumblr actually starts to look like a legitimately new form of blogging, and it perhaps helps explain why it is undergoing such crazy growth of late. TechCrunch just featured an interview in which David Karp, Tumblr-foundr, noted they were growing at “250 billion impressions every week”!
So while the Tumblr format doesn’t really work for me in this case, I can now understand what Tumblr is great for and why I might go back. I guess I’m thinking more of my mission as a creator-philosopher than a curator anyway. (Though maybe someday there will be a market out there for someone who can curate philosophy well…or at least for one on philosophers and their hair-styles. Thanks for the idea, Jack!)