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Critique Essay Humanities Nonfiction Theory

Making a name for yourself: tagging as transgender ontological practice on Tumblr

By Avery Dame, 2016

This article considers, first, the tag-based architecture as a communicative medium and, second, how transgender-identified Tumblr users navigate and exploit the particular limitations of tag- based architectures. In particular, I analyze how trans-identified Tumblr users navigate and exploit these architectures’ affordances to manage feelings of ontological security in Tumblr’s sharing- centered and tag-managed environment. Trans users express specific self and group identifications, as well as audience and social commentary, through their tagging practices. These tags form the basis of a trans-specific folksonomy, or emergent user- defined tag collections, on Tumblr. However, this folksonomy relies heavily on an existing subcultural vocabulary, limiting users’ self-expression to recognizable terminology with unstable definitions. Terms and their usage become an ideological battleground when users attempt to establish normative tag definitions through public policing and shaming of others’ usage. These conflicts indicate how semantic categorization limits expression of the scope of human self-presentation and gender performance.

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