What I’d like to do now is outline the application of frame analysis to communities formed on the streaming web log (blog) and social networking site, Tumblr.com. Not only that, but I plan to delight you with the specific example of genderfork.tumblr.com, which is a reblog and submission based community blog for trans* and genderqueer folks. Tumblr is a social blogging platform that allows users to manage personal blogs or group blogs, publishing original context, reblogging original content of other users, sending and publishing personal messages called “asks,” and submitting original content to the personal or group blogs of other users. Users “follow” the blogs of other individuals, all of whose content then appears as a streaming feed on the user’s homepage, also know as the “Dashboard.”
The frame within which one operates on the Tumblr platform determines the aspects of reality that become noticed by or “alive to” each person. Tumblr users decide which blogs to follow based on their personal interests and desires, just as an individual might enter into a situation for any number of reasons, but the material on the Dashboard that becomes relevant and “real” to that person depends entirely on the frame of the person’s online community. Through the unique process of reblogging on Tumblr, users make claims for identity by associating with other people’s original content. In this way, social identity is learned.
Let’s take this photo, reblogged by the moderators of genderfork. The photo depicts only the back and shoulder blades of a thin, white skinned person. A filmy, white ace bandage is wrapped in a strip, three or four times around the upper part of the person’s back. Now let’s all take a guess at the meaning of this photograph based on our understanding as individuals operating either inside or outside the frame of the genderfork community. One could guess that this is a photo of a person with some sort of back injury. But someone who has a deep understanding of the community formed around genderfork, would know immediately this is a photograph of a person with a bound chest. Binding is an action practiced by many people with breasts who choose to present as having no breasts. Although many people may practice binding, it is most commonly observed among genderqueer people and trans* men. The social context of the genderfork community allows a person operating within the frame to have an immediate understanding of the meaning associated with the photo without reading the caption or exploring the comments.
So, what I’m trying to get across through all of this theoretical babble is this: if you are living and operating within a certain frame, that frame will affect the way you understand any interaction or experience you have. Frames can drastically change our understanding of meanings and materials. If one were looking only at this blog from within the frame of an online genderqueer community and had no other background about the society within which it existed, one might understand gender fluidigy and trans* identities to be mainstream, accepted, or “normal.” The rules understood and followed by the members of this community create a certain kind of world that makes the outside world seem almost unreal.
“Genderforkr.” Genderforkr. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://genderfork.tumblr.com/>.