Where Is The Money on Tumblr? Cultures of Celebrity and Labour within Tumblr’s Architecture

As Influencers become increasingly ubiquitous on global social media, their presence and practices on Tumblr have slid under the radar and evaded popular and scholarly attention. This begs the question: Who is being heard on Tumblr? Are any users making money on Tumblr? Are there Tumblr Influencers? Tumblr’s affordances often appear opaque to new users, bearing high barriers to entry that require learned digital literacies to navigate the site, network with other users, and participate in various groups. In fact, I argue that Tumblr operates less as an attention economy and more as an interest economy, stipulated by tacit knowledges of silos through ‘notes’ and ‘reblogs’ on an interest-curated dashboard, rather than through the ‘likes’, ‘comments’, and ‘shares’ of a conventional metric-curated newsfeed. I analyze the architecture of Tumblr in relation to celebritizing and monetizing affordances, and demonstrate where and how social, cultural, and economic capital flows among circuits of ordinary and prolific users, and across intertextual media platforms.

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For conference paper: Abidin, Crystal. 2018. “Where Is The Money on Tumblr? Cultures of Celebrity and Labour within Tumblr’s Architecture.” International Communication Association 2018, Prague. May 24-28, 2018.