What even is Tumblr?

I’ve never been able to understand Tumblr. And I don’t mean the community norms and stuff: I mean the platform. It’s blogging with all the useful bits taken out, like usable navigation, and comments, etc. It’s basically a shit version of WordPress.

And one thing I think many people don’t realise is how much the design of the platform influences the way the community works. Software developers can sometimes have a frightening amount of power. The only way to comment on Tumblr is, so far as I understand it, to copy the entire thing to your own blog, and add a comment. So comments also equal signal boost. And then if someone wants to reply to your reply, they copy the entire thing to their blog and add a comment. So the discussion spreads out into endless tendrils across many blogs, instead of being contained in one place, in the comments on the initial blog.

This has a very strong effect on the kinds of arguments that happen, and how they can be inflamed or calmed down. Software design for this kind of interaction is actually really really tricky.

The difference between Reddit, Quora, and Stack Exchange is partially down to their moderation policies, but largely derives from their very different user interfaces. YouTube comments are a mess because they’re messily built: the more contentious ones rise to the top. It’s the platform as much as the people.

And I, as a programmer — web developer — myself, see Tumblr as an inevitable dumpster fire. It follows inevitably from the software structure. (But the main reason I avoid it is that it’s an unnavigable mess, of course.)

I was surprised to hear that it is no longer permissible to climb Uluru

From October 2018, it will no longer permissible to climb Uluru. I was quite surprised to hear this, as it had been my understanding that it was already illegal. Apparently that was a request from the Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land. Now it will actually be enforced. (This decision was made by the board of the local national park, not by central government.)

As a side-note, “traditional owners” is an interesting term. I think I first heard the concept expressed this way a few weeks ago, watching an address by President Michel D. Higgins to the University of Melbourne, where he was awarded an honorary degree. Allan Myers, the Chancellor of the University, opened events with an acknowledgement of “the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet”.

An excerpt from “The Cure at Troy”

From “The Cure at Troy” by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
can fully right a wrong
inflicted or endured.

The innocent in gaols
beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

Call the miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
the outcry and the birth-cry
of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

Deaf Studies: After the third day of classes

Exciting times. This morning opened with our second ISL class — our first without an interpreter. We were mainly refreshing our knowledge of the alphabet by dint of spelling out our own and each other’s names, and also where we’re from.1 (This may also help with getting to know each other.) We also covered some basic vocabulary, such as most of the question words (What and Why and When and How and Where and Who) and a few other bits and bobs.2

After class, and lab work (recording ourselves again, in a bit more detail this time), I had a clinic appointment with IT Services. It took a bit of back and forth, but I finally have access to campus wifi, to my TCD e-mail, and to Blackboard (an online system for accessing lecture notes), and can request library books from the stacks (I do intend to abuse my access to the largest library in Ireland, and to read a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with my course).

And then, this evening, we had John Bosco Conama again, this time for Perspectives on Deafness. The two courses he’s teaching — Working with the Deaf Community and Perspectives on Deafness, have a definite overlap, but seem to be approaching their topics from different angles.3 We spent a lot of this introductory class discussing terminology: Deaf, hearing impaired, hard-of-hearing, deafened, profoundly deaf, etc.

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Charlotte Brontë, feminist

The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, originally published under gender-ambiguous pseudonyms, as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Ellis Bell’s Wuthering Heights was republished under Emily Brontë’s real name shortly after her death. At the beginning, Charlotte Brontë wrote a biographical note on Emily and Anne, now both dead. It included this note on their choice of pseudonyms:

Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called “feminine” — we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality and, for their reward, a flattery which is not true praise.

The biographical note is followed by an editor’s preface, also by Charlotte Brontë. Talking about the qualities of constancy and tenderness in the characters of the novel, she wrote,

Some people will think these qualities do not shine so well incarnate in a man as they would do in a woman, but Ellis Bell could never be brought to comprehend this notion: nothing moved her more than any insinuation that the faithfulness and clemency, the long-suffering and loving kindness which are esteemed virtues in the daughters of Eve, become foibles in the sons of Adam. She held that mercy and forgiveness are the divinest attributes of the Great Being who made both man and woman, and that what clothes the Godhead in glory, can disgrace no form of feeble humanity.

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