Fun Facts

Chesterfield County, Virginia, is usually one of the first counties to get all of their precinct votes in and tallied. They’re also a reliably Republican stronghold. Comparing tonight’s numbers against previous cycles (adjusting for the little demographic shift that has occurred) makes it pretty easy to make a generally accurate call about the state writ large, way before anybody else.



Background: The new gifwich idea is not universally liked.

I appreciate the beliefs that this (1) invalidates more informative means of political discourse on Tumblr, and/or (2) is a wasted opportunity. With that said, I think both are incorrect.

Here are my own two cents: If a community…

Since this references my post, a few thoughts in rejoinder:

1. I don’t think gifwich invalidates “more informative means of political discourse on Tumblr.” I think it is likely to bury it under a cascade of silliness. Fun silliness—I am sure the gifs will be a hoot. But silliness nonetheless.

2. The “gifs are harmless fun” line of reasoning is unfortunately naive. As Tina Fey’s “I can see Russia from my house” laugh line proved in 2008, such silliness can shape the context of a campaign—since, after all, whatever her many flaws, Sarah Palin never said that.

3. Joe notes that he hasn’t heard of or thought of a better way to use Tumblr to advance the political discourse. Well, did they discuss it at Tumblr HQ? I have no idea. I am pretty certain they didn’t ask any teachers, which might be a place to start.

4. I am in no way suggesting Tumblr ought to do things “my” way. I am instead saying that it is hard to get good analysis and commentary about politics in today’s world, and Tumblr has a chance to help. Big events, whether conventions or debates or election nights, seem to me to provide a unique opportunity to introduce people to deeper, more thoughtful discourse about politics—a discourse that lots of people, though by no means everyone, seem to crave. So far, I don’t see Tumblr promoting such discourse during key events, and it saddens me.

It’s the teacher in me.

But, as with all things, I’ll keep teaching—and hoping that people will think about the issue in a new way even if they don’t agree with me.

These are all excellent points (which is no surprise given the writer), though I feel #2 is a bit of an oversimplification of what I’m trying to say. Let me clarify just a few of my own thoughts in reference to these points:

1. This is very possible, and while I don’t think that it will completely dominate the featured sections, it very well may spam the “current” section of the relevant tags, assuming they *are* tagged and that the frequency of posts is high. I’ll be discussing this possibility with others.

2. One, I never meant to imply that the gifs were “harmless fun” and do not support that line of reasoning. Rather, my intent was to state that they are useful addition to the “get people interested in government and politics” toolbox which did not replace nor weaken any other existing tools. While certainly, the gifs produced from this debate will likely be sound bites and one-liners rather than substantive commentary, I’m not sure how they will create statements which were never actually said by the candidates (the specific fear you have listed as an example). Furthermore, it is important to remember that a blogger from the Guardian will be providing the context for these gifs through a liveblogging of the debate over at (the more-subscribed-to tumblelog).

3. I unfortunately cannot speak to this point.

4. Again, this is a fair point, but I think one that speaks to different philosophies of how to go about the goal of an active and engaged community on Tumblr. One can go top-down, and provide more traditional content that is expansive in breadth as well as depth. This has been attempted in the past with other online communities with mixed to disappointing results, except in those cases where the community was formed from onset to cater to that type of content. The less-tested alternative is to instead build bottom-up, which may look messy and depressing at first, but has a more sustainable conclusion which is closer to the overall goal.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Tumblr is going the power bottom route here. 

Re: Tumblr Live-GIFing the Debates

Background: The new gifwich idea is not universally liked.

I appreciate the beliefs that this (1) invalidates more informative means of political discourse on Tumblr, and/or (2) is a wasted opportunity. With that said, I think both are incorrect.

Here are my own two cents: If a community predominantly interacts in gifs (or Spanish or Esperanto, etc.), while I may not love it, if I have a message I will convey it in the native dialogue of that community. This may result in lessening of the totality of my message, but its penetration will be greater within that community than a more holistic message in whatever my preferred language is.

This choice on my part does not cheapen or invalidate my more informative messaging. This is a seductive idea that falls apart when you ask the question, “Would my longform essays get substantially more than 5-10 notes if gifs did not exist?” because the answer is almost assuredly no.

In fact, I’d argue that these less informative gifs actually increase the amount of people seeking out longer form content.

After all, rarely in such cases does a person who is already engaged with the longer form content say “You know what, I don’t care about these essays anymore. Look at this photoset!” Instead, people who otherwise would not be engaged are now more likely to come across my longer form content. In this sense, the native gif/spanish/esperanto messaging is an informational gateway.

Is this a wasted opportunity? Perhaps. However, for me to agree with this statement would require a specific counter-example of what would be better. I have not yet seen nor thought up one.