As I mentioned the other day, I’m experimenting on Tumblr with combining pictures that I’m taking with compelling quotations and questions from my research. Yesterday, I posted an image with passages from Paulo Freire and Sara Ahmed on two buildings in downtown Minneapolis. Just now, while scrolling through STA’s blog, I noticed (serendipitously) that he had posted a photo on Instagram of me taking that photo. Pretty cool. I love exploring different ways to insert myself as author/artist/photographer into the photo I take and the image that I craft out of that photo.
After several weeks break, I’m finally returning to my four part series about how I’m using social media to make trouble. Today, I’m focusing on Tumblr. While I have been busy with other projects (personal and professional), that’s not the only reason why it’s taken me this long to write about how I’m using Tumblr. It took this long because I didn’t really know how I was using it to make trouble. When I first started posting on Tumblr, I had a general, very vague, sense that I wanted to use it to post my examples of making and staying in trouble, but I didn’t have a more specific sense of how I would track/post these examples.
In the brief time I’ve been on Tumblr (since Jan, 2012), I’ve come to realize that it works best, at least for me, when you have a fairly focused and consistent approach to posting. One thing I’ve always liked about my trouble blog is how I can take a very broad and open-ended topic like trouble/making and open it up even further by experimenting with a diversity of ways that it can be understood; the format of the blog encourages this expanding and complicating. In contrast, there’s something about the format of Tumblr that encourages me to focus my ideas and narrow/streamline my vision of how to track and post trouble inspirations. What is it about the format? Even as I love broadening visions and being open to increasingly wider ways of being, I like how tumblr is encouraging me to focus.
Some have argued that Tumblr’s lasting contribution to social media is the single-serving site (although others, like STA, disagree with naming this as “single-serving” because a single-serving site is technically a site with a single post, not a site with a series of posts on a single theme). I’m not sure that I agree, but I do like how some people are creatively experimenting with single-serving (or single-purpose?) tumblrs. A few of my favorite include:
Hmm…as I look over this brief list, I’m not sure that some of these count as single-purpose/single-serving tumblrs? Maybe single-serving sites are even more focused and short-lived (like feminist harry potter or animals disappointed)?
Anyway, I like how Tumblr is encouraging me to experiment with focusing my efforts and with developing projects and products that are consistent and brief. Now, after using Tumblr for almost 5 months (and posting 80 examples), I finally have a more focused plan for how to use it in my own efforts to, as I express it in my tumblr description, “track examples of trouble for inspiration and for training to be a virtuous troublemaker.” Instead of posting tons of examples of troublemaking or troublestaying (I’m using Pinterest for that), I’m using Tumblr to post my experiments with inspiring/provocative “posters.” These posters are intended to model yet trouble self-helpy type posters and are a first attempt at playing with (troubling, challenging, disrupting) self-help methods, approaches and attitudes. Here’s a gallery of my posts far:
Each tumblr poster combines a question or a quotation that has shaped my work with a picture that I’ve recently taken with my iPhone camera while on a walk/hike/run/bike ride. Clicking on the image links to a previously written post on my trouble blog about the question or quotation. I plan to post these daily (as part of my larger goals of understanding troublemaking/staying as a virtue that needs to be cultivated repeatedly through daily practices). I’m not sure if these will be interesting for anyone else, but I think they might help me to make my feminist/queer academic ideas more succinct and accessible. Plus, it will allow me to experiment with being more creative and encourage me to get outside more and enjoy the summer in Minneapolis.
The image above is my first experiment in a new series of troublemaking/troublestaying-inspired quotation posts. I’ve written about this quote before; it’s one of my favorites and part of my inspiration for linking care with curiosity and troublemaking.
Just over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about living (not grieving) beside Judith. In it, I recall a speech my mom gave to a woman’s group about the creative process. One of my favorite parts of the speech was her discussion of how she deals with the Censor–that voice of negativity inside of her that tries to make her doubt herself. I particularly love her line about how to use a dartboard to shut down the Censor. She writes, “another thing that is very effective is to personify the Censor and paste its picture on the wall and throw darts at it. I have done that as well.”
Here’s what I wrote about her line:
I love her comment about the dartboard. I remember that dartboard. It was in our basement (well, at least in one or two of our basements. We moved around a lot). I also remember her telling me that she loved to play darts. She never said why…Now I know.
I do have one memory of her in the basement by the dartboard. Her lips are pursed and she is aiming the dart with quite a bit of determination and a playful twinkle in her eye. It’s a wonderful memory to have. To me, it speaks to her refusal to give in to the Censor and her great sense of humor.
Just a few minutes ago, I was looking through some old film footage of our family farm and I found a few images of that dartboard (at least, I think it was the same dartboard?). I wish I had some footage of my mom throwing darts at it…
I just came across this short film on Ken Burns and storytelling (via Brainpickings and originally posted on the Atlantic):
I was struck by a particular comment that Burns makes as he discusses why we tell stories:
We tell stories to continue ourselves. We all think an exception is going to be made in our case, and we’re going to live forever. And being a human is actually arriving at the understanding that that’s not going to be. Story is there to just remind us that it’s just okay.
I’m troubled by his claims here. Why? I agree with them to some extent, but I disagree with the overemphasis on the individual and their existential crisis. I don’t think that we tell stories just (or primarily) to continue ourselves and to comfort us in the face of our impending death. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live forever. My (sometimes urgent) need to tell stories comes from a strong sense of responsibility that I feel to pass on the stories that I know/that I’ve heard and to give an account of who I am and what I experience. Of course this need springs partially from a desire to have my own voice heard and to leave a trace after I’ve died, but it also, and more importantly, comes from a recognition that I am a self in community and beside generations of others.
As I write these lines, I’m reminded of the second farm film that I created (along with STA) about the Puotinen women as storytellers. In that video, I used Trinh T. Minh-ha’s “Grandma’s Stories,” a chapter from Woman, Native, Other, to frame the various stories. Here’s the passage from Trinh’s essay that I used to introduce me as one of the Puotinen storytellers:
Burns offers a compelling vision of the storyteller, but it is about the Storyteller-as-Self with a capital S who skillfully crafts narratives (that lie and manipulate in hopefully productive, meaningful and complicated ways, says Burns in the video) that convince us that it’s okay to die. I want to imagine the storyteller as a different sort of self who crafts stories that provide comfort and meaning to more themselves, but to and with their communities. And who shares stories that aren’t aimed at dealing with impending death, but with finding ways to help us make sense of and (hopefully) flourish in our lives.