Global Affairs on Tumblr: A Manifesto


Over the past few months, there have been many complaints (including my own) leveled against the Tumblr Politics tag. Some have been conceptual in nature and some have focused on the execution.

For my part, I generally like the idea of tags. A good tag, used well, could foster a sense of community for people from very different backgrounds who all share a common interest. Indeed, I think they can provide a way to find new and interesting material to read and also introduce people to new authors they wouldn’t otherwise have found. I’ve begun to follow the Tumblr blogs of several people entirely as a result of the Politics tag; I also recognize that I’ve benefitted from the tag, as a few editors have chosen to feature my writing there with some regularity.

Of course, the way that the Politics tag works now is not without its problems: if you are interested in global affairs, broadly understood, then the Politics tag is generally not going to be of interest to you; it focuses almost exclusively on American domestic politics and that focus is likely to sharpen further with the 2012 election on the horizon. What’s more, a fair amount of the featured content really only amounts to a quotation or a picture … and some of the content is given over to insults. And, of course, there are the problems that have frequently been raised about the editors: some seem only to promote posts that support their own ideological leanings; some refuse to make clear which posts they’ve promoted; and some have written threatening posts about other Tumblr users.

What I propose, then, is that we ought to start a new tag called “Global Affairs.” It wouldn’t be curated by editors chosen by Tumblr, but anyone who is interested could track it in order to keep an eye on posts that fall into this category and to find new Tumblr users whose blogs they might want to follow. This makes it a whole lot more democratic than an official Tumblr tag. What’s more, since it’s not official, it would be possible to include reblogs in this tag so that people might actually engage in civilized discussion and debate. Of course, being an unofficial tag also means that some posts will turn up that weren’t tagged; it’s not a perfect system and we’ll all just need to zip past those to get to the posts that were intentionally tagged.

What I would ask, for anyone with an interest in this idea, is that you start tagging anything that deals with “Global Affairs,” broadly understood. The only thing I don’t want is U.S. domestic politics, since that’s already covered by the Politics tag. So I have in mind posts dealing with foreign policy, domestic politics of countries other than the U.S., international human rights and humanitarian affairs, and so on. I’d ask people, if they’re going to tag something, to include some original content (I’m thinking something like five lines of text or more). This will prevent links and pictures with no added information or commentary and it will prevent reblogs from showing up that are simply in agreement with the original post but that don’t add to a conversation about it. And, of course, please aim for respectful debate and disagreement.

If you’re interested in trying this idea, then I’d ask you to please reblog this post — sorry for the length! — so that as many people as possible will be made aware of what we’re attempting and can participate.

Then track “Global Affairs,” start tagging your posts, and enjoy!

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