From FYSE 1396: Digital Media Literacy
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Tumblr is a social networking site that allows users to share pictures, links, videos, memes, stories, and much more. Originally founded by David Karp in 2007, Tumblr is now owned by Yahoo! Inc. In May of 2013, Yahoo! reported that Tumblr has approximately 300 million monthly users, and this number continues to grow each day.[1]


Marco Arment
David Karp

In 2006, David Karp and developer Marco Arment created Tumblr. Karp had always had in interest in blogging, specifically in microblogging, which is a more concise form of blogging. He hoped that Tumblr would function as an outlet for other microblogging enthusiasts. Tumblr gained instant popularity with over 75,000 users within the first two weeks. In September of 2010, Marco Arment left Tumblr to create Instapaper.[2] Karp continues to develop the site to better suit new users.

Baym's 7 Key Concepts

Interactivity and Reach

Tumblr can be as interactive as a user desires, yet it is still limited to the main "reblogging" and "following" options that it provides. The "reblogging" feature, which was added to the site in 2007, allows users to share posts by other Tumblr users.[3] "Reblogging" is similar to the "retweet" on Twitter in that it encourages socialization. This socialization aspect of Tumblr allows the website to have a larger reach. The content that one person "reblogs" is not limited to just themselves, but it is also shared with everyone that follows them. This creates a cycle of content exposure for different users. The "reblog" also serves a broader purpose giving people the opportunity to express themselves by sharing the posts that they identify with most, further shaping the personality and vibe of their own page.[4]

The ability for a user to have their own personality on their websites is something that also affects the interactivity of the site. "Reblogging" things that appeal to others will get others to "reblog" that same content. The user that reblogged the content might even get follows because of this. The ability to distribute the content that appeals to the specific user attracts other users who are appealed by the same things. In this sense, users are constantly exposing themselves and their likes to others which in turn creates interactions with other Tumblr users.

Furthermore, Tumblr resembles Twitter through the "follow" and "tagging" features. Users can follow blogs they like, which will appear on their dashboard. Using a tag on a post can allows other users to find similar photos, videos, blogs, etc. with the same tag. For example, a person that like dogs might search "dogs", and they will find posts related to dogs. This person might then decide to follow the author of one of the dog posts, furthering the interactivity of Tumblr.

Temporal Structure and Mobility

Nancy Baym describes two types of media- synchronous and asynchronous.[5]. Synchronous media is almost instantaneous, occurring in real time. Asynchronous refers to media that have time delays. Although the two types of media are seemingly very different, the temporal structure of various media is not always clear. While there are synchronous aspects of Tumblr, like the Dashboard, which updates in real time, Tumblr is primarily asynchronous. Users must spend time drafting their post before publishing it, creating a time lag.

Although there exists somewhat of a time lag, Tumblr has become less synchronous since the advent of the Tumblr app. In 2009, Jeff Rock and Garrett Ross developed the official iPhone app[6] The application enables Tumblr fans to access Tumblr from almost anywhere. People can now post and review other posts as they wait in line at the grocery store or wait for their airplane to arrive at the gate. This decreases the time lag because users do not necessarily have to wait until they return to a computer to check Tumblr.

Mobile App

Storage and Replicability

The ideas of storage and replicability refer to the permanence of media activity. Tumblr is easily stored and replicable as posts accumulate on a person's profile over time. Each successive post adds to a person's scrapbook of posts. A user is able to delete a previous post, but they cannot be sure that their post was not already seen and reproduced by another user. Tumblr users, who use Tumblr to express themselves, may easily forget the permanence of their posts.

Social Cues

Digital media often lacks social cues, and the absence of social cues can sometimes cause messages to be misunderstood. Tumblr is by nature a visual networking site, as users frequently post pictures, videos, and memes. These visuals help to provide Tumblr users with more social cues. Tumblr pages like WhatShouldWeCallMe use video clips to imitate common occurrences in everyday life. Tumblr has strong visual cues, but it often lacks auditory cues. Auditory cues, such as tone of voice, are crucial to conveying messages. Tumblr posts may attempt to provide auditory cues by typing in all caps or bold-faced font to suggest angry or emphatic speech. However, there are not written substitutes for all types of emotional speech, so in this regard, Tumblr fails to provide social cues.