Trading Control for Community

My interview with Max Marshall two weeks ago left me thinking about some of the things he had said about using sites like Tumblr as blogging platforms. I was surprised to hear him say that he wasn’t a fan of using Tumblr himself and preferred to use his own dedicated blog for his curated photo posts. The issue came from presentation style and the amount of control users can have on how their posts are viewed through Tumblr, and that left me to consider how much capacity authors have to control the context in which their content is viewed when using a platform like Tumblr where reblogging is a key aspect of how the site works. On Tumblr, blogging has taken the shape of both posting words as well as sharing images and videos. Additionally, a large part of what makes the site so popular is the ability to reblog or repost content from other people’s Tumblr blogs onto users' own Tumblr.

Tumblr has become a popular social networking platform in large part thanks to the ease of which users are able to post and share the things they are interested in. It also makes it very easy for users to find others with similar interests to build a community on the site with thanks to the the use of Hashtags, category tags for posts, to allow users to search for others posting similar content onto the site. 

An important aspect of community building on Tumblr is the ability of users in the group to repost each other’s content on their blogs. This is used not only as a way of sharing, but also commenting on each other’s content. When a user reblogs something from someone else’s blog, he or she is able to add additional material to that content in the form of his or her own thoughts or ideas about what has been posted. For most in the community, this is how they let each other know what they enjoy or are interested in, but the social aspects can hinder a user’s ability to closely manage his or her content in the way he or she wants to manage it.

While there might be a desire from some users to engage with the platform while still exerting a level of control over how their content is viewed on social blogging platforms like Tumblr or Twitter, these platforms have developed in such a way that the users need to buy into the system in order to participate and engage with other users. As a result of that buy-in, users are giving up a level of control of the context in which their media are viewed and it is up to the author to decide whether the community is worth giving up a certain level of control over their content. 

This issue of context is one that I think deserves to be examined further and I hope to do so in the future. What other aspects of these platforms do you think need to be considered when looking at the trade off at stake on these platforms?

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.