Tag Archives: Tumblr

Framing + Tumblr

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.

Works Cited:

“Genderforkr.” Genderforkr. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://genderfork.tumblr.com/&gt;.

Image Credit:

Bound: http://bit.ly/HYPIou


the frayed end of a rope

what i want to do is write, with my face very close to the page, carefully carving out the lines that will tell you what i’m discovering. and then i want to sing you those lines. the ones that fell out of my pen when i tried to do something academic. so here it is. jumbled but honest, just the same.

about a year ago i discovered the internet. well, i knew about the internet. aim turned into msn turned into yahoo and askjeeves and google to myspace to facebook to gmail to youtube to youporn to hulu. i knew about the world wide web. but a year ago, when i was lost in a mess of my own sexuality and dependency and confused, emotional, political, gray space, i started a blog. on tumblr. an extremely quiet blog without my name or my photo and rarely an original thought. and then i slowly began to make my way into the queerest, most liberating, strange space i had ever known. i spent hours a day, scrolling through photos of outfits and landscapes, tent forts and tattoos and fancy cappuccinos. and videos of people’s girlfriends and boyfriends and boifriends and grrrlfriends and kittens and questions and do it yourself beanbag instructions and kitchen herb gardens and hormone updates and advice on everything under the sun. and there was humor and pain and people wrote about their feelings and their breakups and i wrote about my feelings and my breakup. and there was gender. and sexuality. and so. much. fucking. gender. more than i had ever seen. there were boys and women and girls, men, butches, femmes, bears, twinks, androgynes, genderqueer and genderfucked and genderfluid, mtf, ftm, mtftm, ftmtwtf, transmen, transwomen, transfags and dykes and queers and birls and fairies and bdsm and softbutchgrrlylesbois and gays and bis and trans* folks and polyamorous, pansexual, transsexual, omnisexual, demisexual, asexual, all sexual porn. and stories and pictures and names and pronouns and questions and answers and everything in between the certain and the totally fucking uncertain. and it was all right there. on my computer. on tumblr. on youtube. right there behind my screen. and i was on the outside—safely out of reach. safely anonymous, safely in denial, dangerously curious. they inspired me. they confused me. they lit up a sexy little fire in the pit of my stomach that i called…intellectual curiosity. academic interest. research. that’s valid. that’s understandable. that’s safe. something i would later come to realize was kinship. a very painful perfect, deep—rooted secret connection. i had found the frayed end of a rope and i wanted to follow it. but it took me a while to figure out that the anchor on the other end was me.

So, here’s what I want to know.

What meanings do trans* and genderqueer folks find in online communities? How is social identity formed through collective association with content? Communities created on sites like Tumblr and Youtube operate within frames that determine aspects of reality for the individual and the group. My guess is that these communities provide folks the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences, create solidarity, access sexual images that reflect their bodies and identities, and explore gender fluidity.

The way I see it, the possibilities for expression of gender and sexual identities in the context of queer online space are expanded far beyond that of performance in public, or even private, offline space—an already transformative and dynamic experience is now situated within an equally malleable platform. Over the course of the next few months I’ll be posting and analyzing content on this blog that will shed some light on these questions I have. I expect to look at blog content, vlogs, and academic articles dealing with both theory and practice. In opening up my thoughts and analyses to a larger audience–namely, you–my intention is to get constructive feedback and set the stage for collaborative ideas. Call me out, call me off, call me up, call me awesome (please), just don’t call me late for any queer, vegan, potluck style community activist meetings. Or whatever.