the culture and values of social media

Tumbling

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: blogs, internet culture | Tags: | 1 Comment »

I finally signed up for tumblr, and I’m trying really hard to understand what all the fuss is about.

I often find that I have a very strong negative reaction to new trendy technologies. This is strange as I often end up using and liking them (Facebook and Twitter being prime examples, although I never took to MySpace as much as I used it). I think the best way to describe it is as a form of jealousy: I feel left out by customs I don’t understand.

Tumblr is a lot like LiveJournal, less robust but easier to use. The barrier to entry is pretty much zilch for anyone familiar with social media: sign up, drag a bookmarklet, start Tumbling things. It’s basically a blog without commentary, or a LJ without real comments. I find that I tend to post lots of pictures and quick links to Tumblr, whereas on this blog I try to post substantive entries (or at least I will now that my del.icio.us links aren’t it’s primary content), and I feel like I have to stick pretty strictly to technology. Whereas on Tumblr I feel totally comfortable posting pictures of dresses I’d like to buy or completely personal, superficial viewpoints on pop culture.

The culture of “reblogging” on Tumblr (which substitutes for commenting, although you can hack together comments with a third-party product like disqus) seems to incite a lot of drama. Basically, you can copy anything anyone else writes and add your own commentary on your own Tumblr. Then a link to that commentary shows up on the original post. This is basically exactly the same as comments on a blog or LJ. However, recently Tumblr CEO David Karp deleted a bunch of Tumblr blogs that mocked Julia Allison, justifying this as “anti-harassment,” but in reality just annoying a lot of his users (he overturned the decision two days later). Apparently Allison was annoyed that links mocking her showed up on her own blog. Finally, Tumblr introduced a “blocking” feature, which allows users to block links to reblogs. I think.

Tumblr’s culture is very young. LJ has a culture leftover from the late 90s; it’s sort of mired in netiquette and FAQs, and attracts nerdy fandom nerds and 30 somethings. Tumblr seems, from my limited perspective, to have a culture more akin to the American Apparel, no-politics-more-irony, everything is ripe for mockery hipster viewpoints of the late 00s. It’s also firmly embedded in early 20something New York and San Francisco social life (and much, much more popular in the former city).

I’m sure social status on Tumblr would make an excellent case study for the dissertation, but I still find it all a bit distasteful. I’m Tumbling away, hoping that one of these days I’ll fall in love with it like I have Twitter. So far, not so much.


SXSW 2009: Tips, Tricks, and Resources

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Conferences | Tags: | 2 Comments »

It’s about that time: the time when the dorkiest Web 2.0 dorks in the dorkosphere all descend on Austin, TX for a week. This is my third SXSW Interactive, and as such I finally feel veteran enough to comment on the experience.

This year, I’m on two panels:

P2P 2.0: Copyright, Streaming, and Circumventing Chinese Censorship

Tuesday, March 17, 3:30 – 4:30 PM. With Adam Fisk (LittleShoot, LimeWire), Ian Clarke (Uprizer Labs, Freenet, Revver), Wendy Seltzer (Berkman Center for Internet & Society, co-founder of Chilling Effects), Aaron Ray (The Collective, lots of film/music projects).

AND: Just announced: “Is Privacy Dead or Just Very Confused?” Saturday, March 14, 10-11 am.

I’m so excited to be added to this panel, as it has some slam-dunk academics on it: my friend and future co-worker danah boyd (Microsoft Research) and my former advisor Siva Vaidhyanathan (UVA). Judith Donath rounds out the pack – her current work on signalling is amazingly interesting and I can’t wait to hear where this panel goes. I’m stepping in to sub for one of my terrific advisors, Helen Nissenbaum (NYU).

Tips

  • If you’re trying to decide between two or three things, pick the one with the most famous person. That way you can always say you saw them, even if the event is a bummer.
  • Do not use your laptop while you’re in a panel, because you won’t pay any attention to the actual panel. Did you go to Austin to hang out and meet people and learn stuff, or to obsessively check Twitter?
  • Get to parties about 30 minutes after they open. Earlier and you’ll be the first person there; later and you won’t be able to get through the door.
  • VIP party passes are your friends, beg, borrow, and steal whenever possible.

As a non-drinker, I avoid the worst curse of SXSW: being so hung over every day that the week becomes more like an endurance test than a fun experience.

Resources

  • SXSW ’09 Insider’s Guide. My friend Corey’s genius social network for SXSW fans.
  • SXSW Sched.org: this was the best app of last year. It’s been supplanted a little bit by SXSW’s own home-grown calendar solution, but it’s still really excellent, and updated daily.
  • The Geek’s Guide to SXSW Film. Every year I say “I’m going to a movie!” and I think I have exactly once, to see one of my friends’ short films. This year I am, at least, going to see the new Paul Rudd/Jason Siegel movie I Love You Man. I’m an Apatow sucker.

See you there!