Author Archives: jackiecummings

Take Some Well Deserved Rest

What a wild semester huh? I can’t speak for everyone’s experiences as campus was partially open this semester, but I never left my house to go to class and isn’t that just bananas?

I did actually end up writing about UX’s application to technical communication, and here’s a bit from the introduction to my final:

This essay will argue that the processes of user experience research and testing should be used more holistically, with people across the development team becoming comfortable and knowledgeable in the fundamentals of usability, especially the technical communicators. To make this argument this essay will explore the history of technical communication and user experience, how technical communication influenced and has been influenced by user experience, and the ways technical communicators are already practicing user experience. From there the essay will look toward the future of technical communication in an ever-evolving user-experienced-based workforce. 

Something interesting about this particular paper was I tried out a new method of note taking and managing content I wanted to include from my sources. I ended up using Miro, which I got into in my UX course, and was surprised to notice how well it worked for this project. It’s a collaborative, white board and sticky note sort of workspace. Below is a visual of how I used it to take notes from my sources and outline my paper.

I was really cool this semester to dive into another programs’ graduate course and see some different perspectives on topics I was already vaguely familiar with.

I hope you all have a great holiday!

Technical Communicator as User Experience Designer & Vice Versa

While going over the readings this week I was reintroduced to many user experience (UX) concepts from a technical communications perspective. In chapter 8 of Digital Literacy for Technical Communication Ann M. Blakeslee enforces the importance of researching and considering the audience when it comes to writing, and especially in the context of writing for digital. 

As she went over concepts and processes of understanding and researching audiences, I found most of them to be familiar with my studies in my UX Design class. I was delighted by the way that Blakeslee used the word audience and user interchangeably. This caused me to think of websites and apps in their entirety as the user experience.  

In a UX context, designers don’t spend too much time thinking about the content of a designed product, which is the actual communications. From what I’ve experienced a UX designer will only note the content of the product if it is strikingly poor. 

I’m currently working on a group UX project for campus wayfinding, and while doing evaluations of the existing system and competitive analyses we were shocked to see how often interactable maps would display information about locations in bulk paragraphs instead of a bullet list. I wondered how all the designers of these apps and websites could have missed a problem so simple to solve. My first guess is that they simply lack UX design experience, as it’s a pretty rare discipline only being around formally since around the 1990s. My other theory, for if perhaps the designers did have UX design experience, is that they failed to consider the content of their products as part of the whole experience.

In closing the chapter Blakeslee stresses the complexity of digital audiences and the importance of strategies for researching and understanding them and their needs. Blakeslee urging technical communicators to consider and implement these strategies makes me wonder if those of us working more on the design side of this could also learn a bit more about the user experience of the communications content of the products we’re asked to design for. I hope that as these user-experience oriented research and design/writing techniques are being used more across disciplines, it will better enable teams to come to solutions for users/readers faster and more eloquently. 

Create Your Own Scale of Success

In Chapter 6 of Digital Literacy For Technical Communication Bernadette Longo dedicates a section to writing about modernism and its relationship to technoscience. She notes that even though early modernist goals of universal inclusion can be viewed as positive it is important to remember that there is the capacity for modernism to create negative outcomes as well. She goes on to explain that technoscience has worked clandestinely to the point that it has replaced these modernist ideals with ones that equate utility and economy as acceptance and value. 

These ideals are then exemplified by her recounting of the way the technical writing (which she argues, is a technoscientific tool that assigns value to knowledge)  was used by the Nazis in a memo addressing technological improvements to the vans that were being used for the killing of Jewish people and other “undesirables”. The memos writer used language in a way that concealed the processes and the people involved in the project. Longo describes this as a project of “language control” that negated human values and legitimated the utilitarian technoscientific rationale.

I am no stranger, coming from a design background to reminders of how the same tools one might use to bring people together and affect positive change can also be used by the enemy. Art and design have a long history with capital, government, and propaganda. Just this last week in my User Experience Design class we were going over the CARP (constrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity)  fundamentals of design again for review and when my professor offered an example for contrast she presented us with the below image. 

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stimmzettel-Anschluss.jpg

The image is of a voting ballot from April 10th, 1938, reading “Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Reich that was enacted on 13 March 1938, and do you vote for the party of our leader Adolf Hitler?” The large circle is labeled “Yes”, the smaller “No”.  Much the way technical writing is a tool for controlling the way a person receives the information they’re presented with so is design. The memo Longo referenced used language to assign value and meaning to efficiency while negating the value of human beings. The above ballot heavily implies that the “Da” option has far more value and meaning than the small, off-center “Nein”. Its off-centeredness is also of interest to me as it shows the designer of the ballot also used the design fundamental of alignment to the parties’ advantage. 

Despite how much a moral person will find these works deplorable for the evil that they have supported, they’re both highly successful. Success does not make something worthwhile or just. When writing and designing your intention comes first, and then the ability to which it meets that intention is what identifies it as a success or failure. 

More morally grey than Nazis is the closing paragraph of Chapter 6 of Digital Literacy For Technical Communication where Longo meditates over her writing a technical document for explaining medical equipment and techniques and what she’s communicating and who will receive those messages. She compares those who will be affected by the documents, patients, doctors, and a culture that will continue to uphold medical sciences that use a mechanical model of the human body instead of more preventive lifestyle-based methods of health risk management and prevention. She closes with the realization that technical writers have the power, through their words, to shape culture and be shaped by it. 

I add to her assessment that whenever someone creates something that there should be this level of thoughtfulness, down to the smallest level creation as a sentence you say to someone else in passing or a social media post. Before chasing the impulse to communicate and create, take a moment to ask what your intention is (what do you want out of what you’re doing?) and what possible interpretations form others you could anticipate. Ask what part of the culture your feeding and what you’re starving. Use these thoughts to consider what would make you say your creation was a success or not. 

Whose Job is It Anyway?

In my introductory college English class, our professor had us do a research project where the final result was going to be a website instead of a paper. He stressed the importance that this kind of web publishing was going to have in our work lives, likely independent of the kind of field we entered. His emphasis went over most of the students’ heads(even my own if I’m being honest, I just had an easier time with the project because of my previous blogging experience), and they were frustrated with the project. I noticed many of them, because this was an introductory class, had never been asked to write in this way and were frustrated at having to learn another writing style in a relatively short time for what they assumed was just a whim from the professor. Since that class I’ve had to write for web content three times, once working for the school, for my professional website, and lastly for the website for our senior capstone game. 

I am not a communications major, but I think my previous English professor was correct in introducing that kind of writing to a swath of undergraduates. Reading through Professional and Technical Communications in a Web 2.0 World, and the first chunk of Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, I noted how both works emphasized the way that technical communications specialists are being asked in their work field to have more technical literacy, and be more knowledgeable in visual communications styles and software.  

What I’ve experienced as a design major, is that the same thing is happening on our end and our schooling is reflecting this. In John Moore William’s webflow blog article, 4 reasons designers should write, he mostly notes how writing can improve anyone’s communication skills, but also notes how in web-design designers often have to write their own copy unless they’re lucky enough that the studio has hired a copywriter. 

The way technical communicators are becoming amateur designers and designers are becoming amateur technical communicators is called upskilling, and it has anxiety-inducing implications for the job market. In a previous blog post I worried over Adobe Sensei “stealing my job”, and now I worry about communications majors “stealing my job”, but it occurs to me that I could just as simply apply for and land a job traditionally expected of someone with a communications degree. What’s happening isn’t that one major is finding a way to slip into the field of another, it’s more so that employers are stressing the need for multiple skills for flexible teams. Or, more concerningly, are simply hiring fewer people for the same amount of work. 

In the 2016 research paper, UPSKILLING: DO EMPLOYERS DEMAND GREATER SKILL WHEN WORKERS ARE PLENTIFUL?, Sassier Modestino et al. results implied that when there were more people seeking employment, the amount of skills employers required of those they hired went up significantly. Employers are asking more and more of their workers, in terms of job variance, and are hiring fewer people because of it. 

While having more workers trained in different skills can help out a team and facilitate faster production, I have to worry that not all those seeking work will see the benefits are employers ask more and more of applicants. 

Despite this, I keep in mind as Digital Literacy for Technical Communication’s 1st chapter reminded me, that jobs in the tech industry are still really new, and that jobs and job descriptions change over time because they’re made up to suit the current era they exist in. 

No Such Thing as Multitasking

I typically spend a good chunk of time on the readings for this class every week taking good notes, mostly because I really enjoy the topics in this class. This week however was rather busy and I wasn’t sure I’d find the chapters as interesting as the last few chapters were explored. So, to give me a bit of a break while also getting the reading done for class I had my computer read the text to me while I played Stardew Valley. One can imagine how called-out I felt when, as my computer read Chapter 9 of Mary Chayko’s book Superconnected: The Internet, Digital Media, and Techno-Social Life, I heard the suspicion that younger people who had grown up with technologies such as smartphones and laptops (me and my peers) could be so used to integrating these technologies in their lives that they could end up trying to multitask more aspects of their lives. One might assume that after being called out by my computer for multitasking and putting my generation to shame, I might put down my Nintendo Switch and read the chapter for myself, but anyone who did assume so is incorrect. 

No, instead I continued playing my game, listening intently as the robotic monotone of my computer’s voice sounded Chayko’s research and insights about the very activity I was undergoing. I have spent years listening to podcasts while performing non-complex tasks (doing the dishes, playing simple games, rendering drawings, etc.) and consider myself rather good at retaining the information that has been read to me, and so I wanted to see what Chayko had to say on the matter and also how it matched up to my personal experience. 

I was rather pleased with my decision as Chayko went on to explain how, while students can face detrimental effects while checking social media and messaging while studying, other digital activities could assist certain elementary students. I was also a little disappointed at how I did not remember all of this part, my personal bias causing me to forget that Chayko was referencing how the digital activities that helped some students were relevant to the task they were completing. I, however, stand that I could have forgotten this information if I had personally read the information myself. 

Chayko does back up my decision a little later on when explaining exactly what multitasking is and how some people are just better at it than others. She explains that multitasking is simply switching between tasks rapidly. Though, I find this explanation a little too simple. I consider it more so switching one’s attention (which Chayko defines as the act of giving mental concentration to a given task or unit of information) between the tasks they are doing, rapidly. Chayko reaffirms this when noting how individuals who multitask can end up giving continuous partial attention to many things at once. When one is doing something that they should ideally never switch their attention from, like driving, it’s quite dangerous if they attempt to multitask. My father, who is a contractor and often spends a lot of time driving his truck hauling his trailer to and from sites, will often use the time that he is driving to speak to clients on the phone, drink his morning coffee, and while he no longer does this, used to go over his paperwork. All while driving. While I don’t believe my father should drive like this, I think he’s good at doing it because he has developed his ability to switch his attention to what is most important whenever it’s necessary to switch. This skill has also, valuably, bought him time that he otherwise wouldn’t have if he were only paying his attention to one task. Each task individually would carve crucial minutes out of his already horribly busy schedule. 

Chayko emphasizes the value of looking at both the gains and losses associated with the new ways we’re dividing our attention in the techno-social landscape. I value my time more than anything, and I’m willing to give up a lot of depth of knowledge or quality of work in order to have more time. I wonder if this speaks to my working poor background. I listened to Tara Westover’s memoir Educated (while working on my independent study), and her writing of how her father, a junkyard scrapper, feared time in a way that forced him into making many poor safety decisions struck a sad note in me as I remembered the way my dad would drive. I would like to give every task my full attention, and I believe I would if there were more time to do so. I see everyone fearing time these days, with how work and free time get blurred together working from home or having one’s employers have constant access via a cell phone. While having the computer read, I stole back a bit of the time for something that was relaxing and I think it gave me more energy to get through the other work I had left to do that day.

Your Roomba is Sending the Layout of Your House to iRobot HQ

I apologize for the clickbait title but with the fact being that I heard people fearing over this on Tumblr and in our course textbook within the week I considered it a ponderable subject for this blog post. Also, my clickbait title isn’t exactly false. Unless you set a Roomba device not to in the app, Roombas will send the mapping data of your house to the cloud, where it’s compiled with other data to make a map for the app. So yes, the Roomba is sending the data to iRobot headquarters, which despite the company’s name being so close to the Will Smith movie, is not planning to use the information to break into everyones homes and start the robot revolution. 

However, those that raise the concern around Roomba and other products that collect data in similar ways are likely correct in raising the alarm bells. I know that when I first read the bit in Mary Chayko’s book Superconnected: The Internet, Digital Media and Techno-Social Life where she raises the concern about Roomba’s data collection, I laughed. She writes:

“Digital sites and apps may seem free to visit or use, but a bounty of personal information is generally provided during such visits. Even as the iRobot “Roomba” is sed to vacuum a floor, information about the items in that person’s house (and their mapped locations) is being collected and could theoretically be shared and sold; imagine ads for armchairs following you across the internet simple because your Roomba has detected that you do not own one!”

Mary Chayko, Superconnected

I had read that bit about a day afte having stumbled upon some folks on Tumblr fear-mongering over the Roomba for the very same reason and (in my assumption) a very reasonable user came in and laughed away concerns noting how Roombas can’t collect much information and only use it to make Roombas work better and that previous models of the Roomba would get stuck easily in many homes because the designers and machines didn’t have adequate testing data and to solve that data problem the designers added data collection. Naturally, with the biases of reading that post earlier, I laughed off some of Chayko’s warning. Since, I’ve changed my mind, to an extent. I’ve read more up on the concerns of data privacy and the millions companies are making in the era of surveillance apitalism, much from Chayko’s book. 

During the week I also watched The Social Dilemma, which explores the many ethical concerns around the current technological landscape through dramatization and interviews with several major thinkers on the topic. One such thinker is Joe Toscano, founder of the Better Ethics and Consumer Outcomes Network (BEACON), and former Experience Designer at Google, who left Google in 2017 due to ethical concerns. Toscano has a whole TED Talk about his concerns and possible solutions that I watched shortly after watching the documentary. In the talk he stresses that data collection is not simply automating what the tech industry deems as low cost menial work (like the housekeepers that predated to Roomba), but also other jobs to let companies hire less workers and make more money while the labor market becomes even more destabilized. Most frightening to me was the information that Adobe CC (who I thought couldn’t possibly hate designers more than it already does by becoming a subscription service in 2013) collects data from its users which will be used in Adobe Sensei which will automate parts of the creative process, likely eliminating jobs in an already incredibly competitive job market that I am going to school for. 

The technology we use collects data on every thing that we “give it permission” to do, and the companies that hold this data are only going to use it to make more and more money with no regard for the consequences on the users’ lives unless we change how these companies are allowed to operate. From Your Roomba May Be Mapping Your Home, Collecting Data That Could Be Shared by Maggie Astor, the Supreme Court worries that once we allow the information about the inner maps of our homes to be something that companies can record, share or even sell, other privacies could be at risk due to the precedent. 

I recommend visiting https://www.thesocialdilemma.com/take-action/, as it relates heavily to the material of the section of Chayko’s book we just read through, and it’s less of a time sink than the documentary (another added bonus is those cringe-worthy dramatizations are not in the website).

The Rush of Human Engagement

In sociologist Mary Chayko’s book, Superconnected: The Internet, Digital Media and Techno-Social Life, she writes in Chapter 3 about the surge of emotion (good or ill) that people often experience when they connect with one another online. Chayko terms these emotional surges as “the rush of human engagement” because they are generated in and by the human engagement that occurs online. 

I first experience this digital emotional rush when I first began interacting with fanfiction.net, my very first online community.  The rush of human engagement is now a term, albeit a mouthful of one, that I can use to explain the joyous rush I got as a tween receiving a positive comment on a fanfic I wrote, the shame I felt when receiving a negative review, the excitement of the news buzz when a new development for the product my fandom was built around came about and I got to be a part of the community and the reaction, or the “mee too!” feeling when someone had the exact same headcanon I did.

For brevity, I will refer to the rush of human engagement as simply the rush for the remainder of this post. I got the rush every time I logged in and noticed someone had interacted with my account in any way, and in seeking out that rush I updated my stories and account more regularly. At least once a week I would rewrite my profile page, adding news updates to what I thought would be relevant to my readers, and not long after I started on fanfiction.net, and seeing as I had an interest in visual art, I logged into DeviantArt.com to, in my mind at the time, start my artistic career. In a way, I was right to consider it the start because being involved in DeviantArt taught me what it means to be a concept artist, which became my dream job and the reason I attended Stout as an undergrad. 

Over time, in pursuit of the rush, I switched over to DeviantArt full time, neglecting and eventually deleting my fanfiction.net account. When what little popularity I had on DeviantArt faded, I also switched over to tumblr full time. I ended up scrubbing my name off my tumblr and became more of a lurker

Chayko notes in Superconnected that because the accountability that comes with face-to-face encounters is lessened and there are fewer inhibitions in the digital space, people can become thoughtlessly negative and impulsive and have negative relationships with their virtual communities. I’ve had a minimal online presence for years after seeing people act this way and get canceled and get criticized so much for misstepping that at least one person who got this treatment attempted suicide

Since scrubbing my presence off tumblr and trying to start anew with my online presence in the form of my Twitter, Facebook, website, and ArtStation, I would say that no longer seeking the rush in the way I had in my childhood has been both good for me and has also dulled my online experience. Today while my girlfriend and I drove to Eau Claire to get her a Covid-19 test she asked why I hadn’t shared fanart I’d made of a novelist’s characters on social media so that the author, who is in no way famous, could see and I had a hard time answering her. In truth, I didn’t know the exact reason but I remembered having done such bold things in my childhood when I was a fraction of the artist I am now and the rush I got from engaging in that way and the even bigger rush I received when my work was appreciated by the creator. When I was a teenager I had an online friendship with another fanartist for a game I loved and eventually, I developed a huge crush on her and even flirted with her and sent her artwork of our characters. Now I barely have the courage to share anything I make, even if it’s original and professional. Being in this class has brought up a nostalgic feeling for the rush I used to get from being a part of and engaging with online communities. And while I’ve been steadily trying to ease back into an online presence of some kind, as can be seen in one of my tweets at the top of this post, I still would like to be more online. I just know that if I could reach out to this author, miles away in the UK, through social media to show them my work that it would bring both of us joy. I’m sure we’d both experience the rush of human engagement. Maybe in a few weeks, I’ll make a post and send it their way, or if I’m too nervous I’ll just tag them and their books.

Difficulty in Setting Guidelines in Diverse Online Spaces

I was either 11 or 12, I cannot remember precisely, when I joined DeviantArt. DeviantArt is a website that has always boasted itself as being a platform for artists and art lovers.  I hopped on the website after learning about it through fanfiction.net where I would read and post fan fiction works surrounding characters of the video game series Harvest Moon. One of the authors I followed on fanfiction.net started posting links to a comic series, also fan fiction of Harvest Moon, on DeviantArt and as a kid who’d been interested in drawing since as early as I can remember I was amazed by the broad array of art people were making. In my bedroom in my parent’s house I still have poetry from DeviantArt I copied and pasted into Microsoft Word into a font I liked and glued onto construction paper hung up on my wall. 2009, right around the time of my first forays into the DeviantArt community and likely when I printed out that poetry, was when the “Share Wars” Dan Perkel explores in Share wars: Sharing, theft, and the everyday production of Web 2.0 on DeviantArt were playing out. 

Perkel’s research followed the online community of DeviantArt and the range of responses and tensions created by the introduction of the “share tools” features. These share tools were pretty similar to features that other websites have that allow users to share content via embed links that can be embedded in things like Facebook and blog posts. Tensions rose as groups of the DeviantArt community expressed these tools made art theft easier, promoting sharing outside of the community and garnered unwanted attention without the choice of the artist. Perkel’s research dives into these differences of response and opinion and in doing so reveals that much of what determines if something is theft or not, in the eyes of the artist, has to do with the artists’ interpretation of what art theft even was. I was a child and I printed that poem and now I wonder would that poet have considered me and art thief?

I know at the time I didn’t consider it stealing, as it was posted to the internet for me to view freely at any time and I certainly did not sell the poem after printing it. However, with the range of interpretations from Perkel’s research, I’m no longer sure the artist would see it that way. Some artists from Perkel’s research considered even linking art content was theft. 

The solution that DeviantArt came up with for the contentions around share tools, to ensure that people who liked the tools, people who hated the tools, and people who simply wanted options for using the tools was to simply give the artist these choices when creating artwork. They then had the options to “encourage sharing” and enable share tools, “discourage sharing” and disable the tools or even make the content only visible to fellow “deviants” (the website’s word for their users). They encouraged their users to set their own terms about their work, which in many ways is what most users wanted. 

I also remember the hoops I needed to jump through the user interface to post a simple drawing and walked into spaces like Tumblr and Twitter openly at the thought of simply tagging an artwork and posting it in a few clicks. I’ve noticed in these communities though there’s a lot of emphasis on artists setting their own terms in their bios about how they would like their work to be used and shared, putting the communication on the artists and taking away some of the responsibilities. 

Having been an artist online for years now I know that setting one’s own terms upfront can prevent unintentional offense. I also know as artists are extremely varied as far as people go that these terms and people’s ability to communicate them to their audience also varies greatly. In Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, in the section on virtual communities, he emphasizes the importance of setting clear rules and expectations at the get-go of creating an online community. The runners of DeviantArt struggled with this while attempting to create an online community that was highly individualistic and thusly setting few expectations and adding new features. As a Tumblr user, unexpected features that upset the whole community is something I’m widely familiar with.

While I think there’s merit to Rheingold’s assertion on setting clear guidelines, I also understand through my studies of user experience design that the wider you make your user base, the harder it is to make features that please the majority while keeping them online. Considering this I think that DeviantArt’s solution was fairly elegant if only that had researched their user base enough to realize share tools without these functions would not be desirable by the majority of their users. 

Internet Culture & Consumer Identity

This is one of my favorite shirts, I bought it for a very low price from Romwe.com while reworking my wardrobe a year and a half ago because most my clothes were from high school and either didn’t fit well, were falling apart, or just didn’t appeal to me anymore. I knew that Romwe is a fast fashion company out of China, and was under no illusion as to whether or not the business owners cared about racism, sexism or LGBTQ+ rights. So why did I buy it, and why is it still my favorite? I’ll get back to that later.

In Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart: How to Thrive Online he attempts to give the reader insights into how to intelligently and mindfully use social media tools. In the book, he brings together information from colleagues and other experts and narrows the information he gleams from them into chunks to the reader can use. Two of these chunks from our class’s assigned reading from this book this week stuck out to me as they related to ideas I formed while reading the other two readings. Both chunks were in relations to the research of Mizuko Ito studies internet cultures among teenagers. The first came from page 87, in the section about making internet searches, where Rheingold discusses how Ito found that youths were using search engines to find more information about their interests and were actually learning a great deal doing so. The second came up in the chapter on participatory culture, where more Rheingold reveals more information from Ito’s research, specifically highlighting the difference between those communities that are interest-driven and those that are friendship-driven. Essentially, friendship-driven communities are more so ones that exist on websites like Facebook or MySpace, consisting of people who know one another already and want to catch up, and interest-driven communities are more often on interest specific forums and digital spaces.

Rheingold emphasized that people more likely to be drawn in by interest-driven communities tended to be those who do not have a strong pool of real-life friends. This reminded me of the idea of consumer identity and how it plays into internet-based, interest-driven communities. People left alienated in their social lives turn to the internet to find people who like the same things as them, and then as they do liking and consuming, those things becomes an integral part to their identity and their community. These thoughts are not new to me, having grown up within fandom cultures on the internet I’ve spent a good deal of time in my young adulthood reflecting on whether or not those experiences were good for me. Much of my identity as a teenager was based around buying things about merchandise about those things. I proudly sported Marvel and BioWare tee-shirts to flag to other teens who might be interested in those things to maybe start a conversation. Businesses love that, fandom is essentially free and incredibly powerful advertising. The tiniest communities that can form online over the most niche of interests can be profited from in this way.

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson explores exactly how profitable these niche interests can be. Anderson explains that through features like Amazon recommendations, sellers are collecting information about what people like and connecting them to other things and in doing so increasing their profits and sales. Companies like Amazon terrify me because no matter how much I despise Jeff Bezos and abhor the company’s track record when it comes to treatment of their workers, the website is still where I’m going to publish my graphic novel when it’s finished because it will be the easiest way for me, the author, to get it out to the audience I’m looking for and profit off of it.

The business worlds’ interest in the communities that purchase their products was also apparent in The Cluetrain Manifesto, where the writers express to business heads that they need to speak with and be a part of those communities or they will become a thing of the past. To me, the entire document was alarming, because while the writer protests that advertising is no longer being paid attention to by consumers, the kind of response they’re asking for from businesses is the type of advertising landscape we live in today. Asking businesses to stand for something while also keeping profit as their goal brought to mind Pride themed vodka and snarky Denny’s and Wendy’s twitter accounts. With these ideals the line between consumption and culture continues to blur together in a frightening way.

Then why did I buy that shirt and why do I still love it? Well, for one it’s very soft and it fits me well. The other thing is that it does flag me as a safe person to those who I want to protect, and it flags to others I won’t tolerate their behavior. During the 2016 election, as bigots in my community were getting more vocal than they had been since I was a kid, I noticed how safe something as simple and commercial as a rainbow flag made me feel. Whether we like it or not consumer goods are part of the way we communicate with others, and they do relate to how we identify. However, I haven’t purchased anything from Romwe since that shirt, and I am much more mindful over the consumer goods I purchase and how they represent me.

I’ll leave you with a YouTube video that’s only about ten minutes long if you play it at double speed, that explores the idea of consumer identity becoming a type of identity actively cultivated by businesses.

Why I “Left” Tumblr

My first experience with blogging was Tumblr so it’s no surprise I was interested in Jeremy Gordon’s LET’S ALL GO BACK TO TUMBLR article from The Outline when Professor Pignetti mentioned there was an article on Tumblr in the module.

Reading over the there were some sentiments that resonated with me more than others and some that just didn’t fit in my experience with the website and Gordon’s main point of comparison, Twitter. Gordon, like me, seems to be feeling a bit of nostalgia for Tumblr’s heyday and wondering why after many people made the switch to Twitter enjoyment of that type of platform has been more difficult. However, I was surprised that Gordon never really asked why people made the switch, instead he focused on the different cultures he experienced between the sites, and made clear his preference. The only pondering he does of why people left Tumblr is through suggesting things like Twitter’s growing popularity and his peers’ changing lives after college. He recalls abandoning the platform as the majority of people he knew on their moved on to other platforms, and I more or less recall doing something similar but importantly I remember why I saw people leaving the platform.

I got into Tumblr through DeviantArt, noticing both my peers and content makers I looked up to becoming more active on the site as a more streamlined way to post and organize their work as well as share process and their lives with their fans and peers. While I followed a fair share of meme blogs, ARGs, and writing blogs the primary group of content makers I was following was and still is fellow visual artists. Making the professional switch to Twitter had to do with seeing Twitter become the social media standard for Game Developers leading up to, during, and after my Junior year trip to San Francisco’s Game Developer’s Conference. At the same time I noticed others make the switch for an unrelated, but very profound reason. From what I recall, Tumblr was making changes to how to censored content to crack down on illegal pornography on the site, as a result, the site started censoring a lot of unrelated images and tags. I remember searching tags I searched often in the past like “lesbian art”, something pretty mundane for an out lesbian artist to search and getting the “There’s nothing here.” message. There were also many accounts of people getting their blogs taken down for showing “pornography” that was misread images of art. While this was happening people within the circles I was following were bringing up the injustice of sex workers having their business removed from the platform, destabilizing their income. 

While Tumblr has fixed most of these issues by now, and the reason for the changes made sense at the time despite being poorly implemented, many were so frustrated that it even happened to begin with that they just made the switch to twitter permanently. I had, unrelatedly, removed everything from Jackie Cummings from my blog because it was largely only tied to my life and work as a teenager, and so sticking with Twitter instead of trying to build a new Tumblr continued to make sense to me. 

I do wish that Tumblr hadn’t had the troubles it did because I truly haven’t experienced a platform with as many features that I liked since. My biggest irk when using Twitter is still that it doesn’t organize with tags the way Tumblr did, making it harder to find things and people related to my interest or even search my interests within someone’s account. I agree with Gordon that the way Twitter does threads sucks compared to Tumblr. On Twitter, I’m always seeing reply tweets out of context and having to dig up to see who said what and what they meant instead of seeing the thread at once and only in relation to the person who’s account I saw it on, and I agree the character limit on Twitter doesn’ leave room for the sort of nuanced discussion people are trying and failing to have on Twitter. Whenever I see someone on Twitter has a Tumblr, I make sure to follow both to get a better idea of who they are and what they do, because Tumblr usually paints a clearer picture in my experience.