A little while ago I wrote about how much Twitter sucks, and someone asked me what the solution to it is. My response: tumblr. Tumblr is for winners. Twitter is for losers. This argument goes in a couple directions: firstly, what tumblr is and why it's awesome. Second, why being random is the way to be. Third, why reference is dead (or, why hypertextuality is dead; or, stop reblogging). I stumbled onto tumblr about a year ago and quickly dismissed it as just another shitty microblogging platform. I signed up earlier this year with the intention of posting tons of random thoughts, but I quickly gave that up because I felt like rolling my own solution. My own solution worked, but I didn't have the time to dump things on it all the time, and it was too focused. I realized the beauty of tumblr and how it was different and better than twitter. People say twitter is simple, but I very much disagree, especially while tumblr exists. Twitter, as I wrote about earlier, is all about self-importance and meaningless autofelatio. Tumblr is primarily about nothing in particular. It doesn't say "what are you doing right now?" or "post something about yourself," it just says POST SOMETHING. It even gives you an array of options beyond just text, and it doesn't really constrain you. This mentality offers creativity as a foundation, which has lead to tons of awesome tumblogs. (I follow This Isn't Happiness constantly.) My brother-in-arms Sam and I decided one night that it would be funny to start our own tumblog of random shit, which is what we did. (I offer it as a link to the right not because I believe it belongs among the time-honored sages like /b/ and ytmnd, but merely because it's an alternate source of information besides this blog.)
The basic formula for our blog was simple, and leads to the two things I said I'd dive into: be random and don't reference (if you can help it).
Be random is beautifully simple yet allows infinite complexity and is at the heart of why both tumblr and the internet in general is awesome. A lot of people think that "be random" is synonymous with saying "be original" or "be different." These ideas could not be further from the point I'm trying to make. First of all, being truly original is really, really hard in the digital age. It's not worth anyone's time trying to be completely original. You'll spend time trying to make sure you're being original when you could be spending time just doing. Be random signifies this "just do it" mentality. Think of something? Post it. See something neat? Post it. Something turn you on? Post it. It's worth it every once in awhile to go out of your way to be random; one of Guy Debord's ideas that I enjoy the most is that of the dérive, something that I think especially applies to the internet. The idea is simple: go on a journey, physically and psychologically, through the man-made landscape of a city. Allow it to guide you, forget about guiding yourself. The idea here is that we subconsciously create our own terrain with its own entrances and exits that exists outside of nature. Go out of your way to be random, and you don't know what you might find. This is one of the reasons why I find 4chan exciting, but not very exciting. Tumblr is a much better example of having structure in being lost. What you're reading on a lot of tumblogs seems like randomness, but it's usually just copy-and-pasting from the blog's author as they surf the web. There is a structure there, a subconscious web that is strung out in a more straight line for us to read.
I'm calling it right now: the reference is dead. Hypertextuality is on the way out. It was big in the 90s, but it's a sinking ship. I've seen in a few tumblogs a quote, it goes something like "people who don't link to the source of their tumblr posts are assholes." I'm paraphrasing, but the idea is that every tumblr post that isn't "original" should have the source of it linked to. So if I post a picture of something, I should post a link to where I got it. I find this to be completely nonsense, and I think we should purposefully ignore it and make an effort not to point backwards. The phrase we used when we started Castle Nail Fuck was "we will never reblog anybody." That was the second rule. I posted: "good bloggers reblog, great bloggers fucking steal." Stop watching Family Guy, because referential humor just isn't that funny.
The basis for the internet was hypertextuality. Hypertextuality is the notion that pieces of a whole can be linked to other wholes, that there really is no more "whole" of anything because everything can be broken down into links to other things, hence the internet is a hyper-real world without any end or basis in reality. The biggest example of this is Wikipedia, where every other word is a link to another wikipedia article. This was a big deal in the 90s and a lot of scholars wrote a lot about it. I don't give a shit about it anymore, it's very old news. The new big thing that I'm banking on is anti-referencing, or the deliberate severance from source. I don't believe that anything on the internet is original anymore. How often to you believe that you've actually found the source of a video or a picture? This blog you're reading now isn't actually the source of this text. This text was written in Word or MetaPad or something, and then pasted and formatted into this Wordpress blog. The source of this doesn't really exist in reality at all! This isn't a really whoa moment at all, I admit, but the concept I want to jackhammer out is the idea of the scale behind this. Scale is always what defeats naysayers. Think of the millions of videos on YouTube and how many of them are re-uploaded from something else. Or how many Wikipedia articles are just copy-and-paste from an encyclopedia and not referenced.
One of the problems of this and a point that could be raised against it is the old what is the value of an image in the age of mechanical reproduction, anyway? Who cares that it is just a repost without a reference? The same argument was made about Warhol's Campbells soup cans or putting the Mona Lisa on a stamp. The argument was that if you reproduce an image, you lose part of its significance until it doesn't mean anything, or even worse, the reproduction is worth more than the original. The Mona Lisa is a good example, because most people have no idea how small it actually is, and when they see it firsthand they'd rather have the 8-foot print. But imagine that nobody knew where the original Mona Lisa was. Would anybody care anymore? Well, you're right, it totally does not matter how many image hosting sites housed the image to the left. I don't think the majority of everybody would really care if we lost the Mona Lisa tomorrow.
What matters is that it doesn't matter any more at all. It does not matter. There isn't an argument anymore. Reproduction is the new standard. Originality is dead. With it, I claim that the reference is also dead, because nobody cares about the source, really. We're used to there not being a source, if the subject encompasses itself. Yes, we do care about a source when it's an image that needs explanation, but wherever the explanation is (news article, YouTube page, whatever) isn't the point of origin either. So be random and just copy the image and put it on your site without saying where it came from or why.
Why tumblr is still not the greatest thing ever: like twitter, it's all about "following" and having "followers." If there is anything I'd change about tumblr (and "social media" in general) it would be this language. My difficulty is trying to figure out an alternative lingo. I hate "friends" because it's even bigger bullshit, and I'm going to write another post about that sometime. When I figure out an alternative to "follower" and "friend" I'll let you know.
But for now, fuck originality, be random, and start a tumblr.