(De)Generative Platform

If you’re one of the six people who, like me, are still on Tumblr, then you’re probably aware of the near-endless amounts of small changes that the staff have been making over the last few years. Each of these changes are received with a resoundingly negatively reaction.

They include, but are far from limited to:

  • The removal of post editing (four years ago)
  • Banning of porn (last year)
  • Making custom blog design more difficult (ongoing)

The reasons that these changes were received so poorly are multi-faceted. However, if there is a single unifying theme to them, then it is the Tumblr staff failing to understand the reason that their users are on the platform in the first place. Namely, that Tumblr is, or at least was, a generative platform.

There’s a reason that creative flower crown types gravitated toward Tumblr, and that was the freedom that it allowed. Users were willing to tolerate the Bad Design of the site, and it’s unreliability, for the ability to customise their corner of it. People used Tumblr in just about every manner possible: as a prose blog, art portfolio, professional site, fanfiction hub, and, yes, for porn.

Certainly the site was practically non-functional at times and it attracted all manner of weirdos and degenerates, but the creative freedoms that it allowed overshadowed them.

You stayed because Tumblr gave you control.

Tumblr has since eroded that image, stripping away freedom piece by piece, until it was no longer a truly generative platform. However, the staff remain incapably of controlling what goes on, with bots and nazis still prevalent. As Corey Doctorow states in Lockdown, instating such regulations makes it easier for users to copy and control content, rather than harder.

The Tumblr rule changes function as a contained version of many such real copyright laws, the most recent noteworthy example being Article 13. However, like the Tumblr changes, Article 13 won’t work.

this is the remediation btw

Article 13 can be circumvented simply by changing your VIP address. Tumblr’s ban both failed to catch much of it’s NSFW content and drove away users to more hospitable platforms.

Not every platform has to be generative as golden-era Tumblr. But the failings of Tumblr represent what happens when a platform provider doesn’t understand the appeal of their product.

4 thoughts on “(De)Generative Platform

  1. Hey, Honey! says:

    I liked how you discussed that Tumblr was once a generative platform, but its transformation over time to a locked platform, thus no longer empowering users, is quite interesting. I guess it comes back to the idea that when open platforms like Tumblr become closed – generativity dies, and the transition from open ended access to conversation to a closed one way passage to information begins. In my blog post I didn’t discuss this as much, but looked at Creepypasta, another platform thats probably in another person’s 2011 starterpack (I know its in mine!). I talked about how the absence of access permissions on platforms can foster generativity and collective intelligence. would recommend checking out this source too, which talks about how generative platforms are beneficial in design software! https://www.dezeen.com/2017/02/06/generative-design-software-will-give-designers-superpowers-autodesk-university/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. seanpix01 says:

    I found your blog post to be well written and enjoyable to read, I really like your remediation as well.(memes) Also, great implementation of media (Youtube Video) as it provides context and gives the reader a greater understanding of the topic. I also enjoyed your brief history of Tumblr as I have always viewed it as a source of inspiration for photography. Check out Gary V’s podcast on the potential for social growth on tick tok as a youth genrative platform https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4_aK7VGJ7Y. Your article is very educational and successful in providing value to your audience. Good Job!!! 👍😃


  3. CHRISTINA says:

    Your blog post was very interesting, I particulary enjoyed reading how Tumblr was once a generative platform and the drastic changes that have happened. For me this is all new as I have never used this platform. I found this engaging prezi on Generative platforms https://prezi.com/77tmzggmnfuy/generative-platforms/ it helped me understand the whole concept a little better. It is quite annoying for users like ourselves that have to see a platform we once used to love change and replace all our favourtie features with new ones. I think this is what has happened with Tumblr it has slowly lost it’s open platform layout and adapted a more closed layout.


  4. Amy dunn says:

    As a former Tumblr user, I appreciate this blog a lot, mostly because I’ve experienced first-hand what it was like for the site to go from open to closed. While the site undeniably had its flaws (e.g. being able to edit other people’s posts, Russian bots and general glitches) it was, like you said a platform for all types of creatives and allowed a platform that could be changed to fit the user, but as the site became more and more closed of more users left for more hospitable sites. You also talked about Tumblr’s complete ban on porn for copyright reasons as well as the UK’s ban, this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gODgQan9oJY&t=623s) goes in to a little bit if detail about both those things as well as how Tumblr essentially killed it self my changing so much that they no longer appealed to their audience


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