Art & Design

Across the Tumblrverse: The Truth About Tumblr

Art & Design

Across the Tumblrverse: The Truth About Tumblr

PRINT PRINT PRINT
PRINT PRINT PRINT
+

Try and think of Tumblr as a post-internet manifestation of the zine—the D-I-Y publication, composed of original and appropriated material, collaged assemblies of images and words, specialized in content but standardized in format, self-published and shared within a community of peers. But the physical media is different. What was once ink and paper, xeroxed and stapled, is now animated by the screen (.jpg, .mp3, .mov, .gif and so on). We’re not leafing through but scrolling down, or across, sometimes endlessly. We’re not distributing hand-to-hand, on street corners, conventions, or in shops, or via the mail, but we still subscribe. Now, it’s cut, paste, copy, like, follow, share. In action and intention, Tumblr blogs are an extension of a long-standing tradition—from the revolutionary treatises of canonized white guys like Luther and Paine, to the early-20th century sci-fi fanzines and Tijuana Bibles (sex comics), to ‘70s punk publications and ‘90s riot grrrl manifestos—of zine-making, pamphleteering, and the indie press. That’s the argument, anyway.

Another argument: Tumblr is life in the 21st century. It is art, culture, humor, sex, politics, and kittens. It is messy, over-stimulating, exhaustive, ephemeral, and immediate. It is individualized and social. It is the dispersion of power in cultural production and taste-making. It is every human interest, opinion, and fetish. You’ll find a Tumblr for everything. A good chunk of it tits and dick. C’est la hyperréalité!

But in reality, Tumblr is a microblogging platform with a social networking application. The “blog” in microblogging refers to that now very familiar journal-style website (web+log) in which entries or “posts” are typically organized in a scrolling column, in descending chronological order. “Micro” means concise posts, distinct clusters of information, like a picture post, a link post, or a quote post. This is just a way of organizing information on a website. Tumblr’s way is facile and legible.

The platform offers its community of users the ability to easily, with just a few clicks, post and re-post anything. Internet pioneer Jason Kottke explained it like this: “A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness… [it’s] really just a way to quickly publish the ‘stuff’ that you run across every day on the web.” Tumblr hosts over 45 million individual blogs. Taken as a whole, this tangled Tumblrverse is like a “quick and dirty stream” of consciousness of the world wide web.

At 45 million-plus entries, the Tumblrverse is difficult to navigate, so this column is designed to help you find what you like, without even knowing you like it yet. Every week, we’ll feature one fascinating Tumblr or Tumblr phenomenon. This week, in response to the endless scroll of Tumblr, we present PRINT PRINT PRINT, a Tumblr that consists exclusively of images of zines, artist books, and other print ephemera.

PRINT PRINT PRINT is essentially a catalog of exceptional print material. Each post presents one product, with photographs and bibliographic and exhibition information (artist, title, medium, size, pages, edition number, publisher, printer, etc.). These are products that will be hard to find, editioned in small numbers, if in multiples at all. Through Tumblr, their content can be shared with a world wide audience. Enjoy!