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Nothing of me is original...

kobieta's picture

In class on Thursday, it was discussed that it was possible to be individual, collaborative, original, and using common treasury all at the same time; that possibly, we don’t necessarily always have to classify any given type of writing into these four things.

With the help of the internet, I believe that the lines between these four things will blur even more within the next few years. Coming along this, will be more problems concerning authorship, since using the common treasury can be easy, and claiming this thing as originally yours, is even easier. It’s already hard to identify the real source of an idea. If information and ideas are readily available in the palm of our hands—quite literally, when talking about the iphone, tablets, and smartphones—what is to stop anyone from “unconsciously” plagiarizing. Digital writing, in a sense, will also be like a database. There might not even be a distinction from one person to another.

Take, for example, Tumblr. I use Tumblr, and I often find myself “re-blogging” posts that others have blogged before me. Yes, you can easily trace down the original source, because Tumblr keeps track of where each person gets it, but does that really make a difference? When I find a post that I want to re-blog, I don’t bother looking for the original poster. No, I don’t give credit to the person before me, since I know she didn’t make it up either, but by merely putting it on my blog, aren’t I also claiming it as my own, as part of something that is an extension of myself, by posting it on my blog?

All these problems on authorship remind me of a picture my twin sister stumbled upon in LiveJournal, once upon a time (the one I posted along with this entry). I thought it very appropriate for the topic at hand. What’s ironic, is that while I am posting it to prove a point on the problems of authorship, I can’t even further my argument, because I myself, don’t know the source of the picture. This goes to show how easily one can get something off the internet, save it, and not even once, credit the original source.


leamirella's picture


I'm not an avid tumblr, I'll admit though I do have an account which I occasionally use to browse through "pretty" pictures and get a sense of the people behind the compilation of images.

What really intrigues me about Tumblr, (the various friends and family members that are obsessed with it can attest to this) is the way in which you're given this medium that allows content to be so easily put together. Take, for example, the simple interface that you get on your primary dashboard - personally, I love it. But kobieta, your questions about this digital medium are very intriguing.

Initially, I was inclined to agree with both you and EGrumer about how you don't credit the original source. When you reblog something, there is a small tag at the bottom that tells your reader about where the image was sourced. In the link that EGrumer put up, there is some text under the image: (via Sacrebleu!). This "stamp" is where the image was first appeared on Tumblr. If the image was downloaded from somewhere else, there is a Google Picture Search engine which could allow for you to find it. While this seems like a huge effort for just one thing (hell, I'll admit, I don't do it), I do think that this is an important thing to consider.

On the flip side, I want to consider the idea that everything that you put on the internet will be prone to reproduction because of how easy it is. Especially if you place your image on a medium like Tumblr, you know that whatever is on there has the possibility to be reblogged by anyone that may see it. There are very few privacy settings on the website and anybody that puts an effort to find your tumblr with your images can "steal" them. But I've been considering the reasons for someone to have a Tumblr - they aren't the same as the reasons for a Facebook. Of the active Tumblr users that I've met, there seems to be a desire to gain as many followers, post often and on a regular basis and have as many reblogs as possible. In fact, I recently came across an image that said something along the lines of "____ reblogged YOU. Yes! <3" which speaks to this desire. There seems to be a "free giving" culture on the site which allows for people to just "take." My younger sibling got excited when an image that they took and placed on the website got reblogged 60 times in a couple of hours. My main point, however, is that citation also is greatly dependent on the medium through which information is passed in.

Additionally, I'm also really interested in what kobieta said about originality. The image (and words, consequently) "Nothing of me is original, I am the combined effort of everybody I've ever known" is true, drawing on the same concept that "no man is an island". However, I'm really curious to think about this in terms of Tumblr because both kobieta and EGrumer have written about creating a sort of 'identity' online. While this does speak to the constructedness of the idea of the 'individual', I do think that there is also some agency here. A Tumblr user has control over the content that appears on their account which in turn, reveals a part of themselves. An "extension of themselves" if you will. Thus, couldn't that "selective usage" of content be interpreted as "independent" and "original"? Though there are sources for the content, the final product itself (the tumblr account) is actually greater than the sum of its parts.

EGrumer's picture

Tumblr and attribution

Tumblr is a great example of internet attribution issues.  Personally, I often find myself trying to find the providence of images I’ve found there, clicking fruitlessly though reams of “reblogged from…” or “via…".  Usually, I give up before I find the original artist, or get to the original poster and find that the art is unattributed there.  I want to know who created it, but no one seems to know that.  At the same time, this very list of users who reblogged a specific image is a fascination history of connections.  It doesn’t help me answer the question of who took that beautiful photograph (or whatever), but it is in itself a mesmerizing web of intersecting microbloggers.  Even when the image's source is available, as here, this web is worth looking at.

I think that hyperlinks are an amazing tool, and hopefully one that will be a wide-spread part of the digital humanities.  In the paragraph above, I was able to cite a source by linking straight to it.  I hope that this – easier attribution – is part of the future of digital writing, and that the bit where things flow together and attribution becomes impossible is not.  I do agree that, by reblogging an image, the blogger claims it as something that speaks to him or her, and consequently as part of that blogger’s identity.  But I suppose that we have wandered into an interesting realm of netiquette here.  What if I find an image that I want to post, but I can’t find who created it, or what it is of, or anything about it?  Can I just post it?  Am I obligated to mention that I am not the creator? In the world of academia, the answer would of course be yes, but from what I’ve seen on Tumblr, the answer is often no.  Other Tumbler users realize that posting something is not claiming authorship of it, and so images simply exist there, multiplying themselves out with each reblogging, like a mirror-in-mirror trick.  Where they came from is a mystery.