December 26, 2011

The Hall Of Mirrors

I recently started a couple of blogs on Tumblr (nothing terribly new or interesting — you can find them yourself if you know what to look for). It's something I've meant to do for a long time, but just never got around to actually doing until this year's Christmas holidays.

It's been an interesting experience for a seasoned blogger like me — Tumblr's basically an ecosystem of bloggers and re-bloggers, producers and reproducers, with the emphasis on the latter in each case. Tumblr makes re-blogging whatever you encounter a trivial exercise (a bit like retweeting); presenting someone else's work (images especially) in a completely different context, without commentary, and without the carefully-crafted surrounding text and formatting, seems to be a large part of Tumblr's raison d'etre.

I'm guessing the ratio of reproducers to producers is sometimes as high as 10 to 1 (if not more). Entire blogs exist to do nothing more than reblog other people's work in a personalised context (usually just jamming the reblogged images up against each other), a sort of display of personal logos-by-proxy and visual bling that seems to exist solely to define the identity and in-group of the reblogger. A sort of hi-tech equivalent of the posters teenagers (still!) put up on their (non-Facebook) walls, I guess (or the edgy art aging hipsters put up on their immaculate walls). I don't think it's accidental that a lot of the re-blogs I've stumbled over are ostensibly run by teenagers or people in their early twenties. Tumblr also lacks a usable native commenting system, which adds a sort of lack of interactivity to the hall of mirrors feeling.

Does all this worry me? Not really — the whole effect of reblogging or reproducing is something quite new, a sort of postmodernism-for-the-people in ways that feel pretty congenial to me. It does make me wary of putting up some of my people photos — god knows where some of those familiar faces and bodies might end up — but stumbling across a really well-thought-out wordless reblog can be a real joy.

I guess I'm sort of proud to be one of the producers, but I'm also fascinated and sometimes even enchanted by the effect of all the reproduction. Let a hundred flowers bloom and all that — understanding that it's often just one flower being reblogged a hundred times (and the flower turns out to be van Gogh's). Benjamin would be fascinated, I'm sure — and Adorno's probably spinning in his grave (Adorno's, not Benjamin's).

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