top of page
  • Alessandra Thom

(ARCHIVE FEVER) Web Weaving, by Alessandra Thom


Image credit: @serratedpens, via @oumaimas, 2020

In this essay written for Archive Fever , Alessandra Thom locates within context some of the newer poetry communities and forms that have coalesced around Tumblr in recent years. Arguing that this is a potentially anti-capitalist art, escaping control by algorithms and web 2.0's drive to monetisation, Thom makes the case for the potential of poetry in 'slow' social media platforms — sites that remain an anachronistic holdout from an earlier internet.


If you were online in the early 2010’s it is highly probable that you carefully transcribed your angsty notes app poetry into your Tumblr blog with a gif of Effy from Skins attached and sent it off into the ether to garner three likes and a text from your best friend asking you if you were alright. Today, Tumblr is a relic — the ghost of internet past — but poetry has managed to evolve on the site, as small communities do still thrive there. One such community collates related fragments of art and text in a web. These fragments are posted together with the general purpose of putting the pieces in conversation with each other or in order to speak to a theme, very often metaphysical in nature. These posts are circulated under the tag web weaving and other users often add their own interpretations of the theme or add their own pieces of art which they believe adds something of value to the post.


Web weaving relies heavily on visual art and ekphrastic connections to create the webs. This is particularly relevant to note when we compare it to poetry posts on, for example, Instagram and Tik Tok, two sites which demand focus on visuals that have now become havens for capitalist ventures. It is interesting that a form which relies upon visuals has managed to stay so anti-capitalist in nature. Here, I shall investigate the potential of the form as a new mode of anti-capitalist poetry creation, arguing that this is down to the anti-capitalist potential and the centring of connections both of the web weaving form itself, and of Tumblr. It speaks to the possibilities available to us within slow social media sites like Tumblr for art creation and community building. The term slow social media may seem oxymoronic, but sites such as Tumblr, Pinterest, and the web forums of the not-so-distant past, communities have and continue to thrive by creating content which does not conform to an algorithm. There is no company or influencer trying to get you to consume as much content as physically possible. Slow social media is not created to be consumed on a mass scale and in a throwaway manner in order to increase views, clicks, likes and most importantly revenue for the platform and the content creator. Web weaving is a direct reaction against influencer culture.

Image credit: @iloveprideandprejudice2005, via @oumaimas, 2018

This piece argues that web weaving at its best functions as community art. However, there is missed potential within the way the form has developed. Oumaima, widely recognised in the community as the creator of the form, argues that web weaving has changed significantly and has become “at best an annoying echo chamber: the same decontextualized quotes and well-liked paintings over and over and each time you get further away from having it “mean” anything” (2022) .The form has changed in order to appeal to a wider audience and can often be contrived, featuring the same Van Gogh painting, the same Mary Oliver poem over and over again. She argues that this is because of the vastness of Tumblr; that the more people who you are trying to get to relate to the post, the more watered down the concept becomes. In its initial form, web weaving was anti-capitalist in that it rejected the pace of consumption that modern social media demands. The possibility for endless iteration and transformability ‘devalues’ the form — you cannot sell something which is constantly changing. It has however, now begun to participate in the endless reproduction and ‘value-added’ logic of capitalism. Yet this is the same within any form: bad art exists, commercial ‘art’ exists, and to use this as an argument against the form itself is narrow-minded.



Image credit: @iloveprideandprejudice2005, via @oumaimas, 2018

Why, too, is web weaving happening primarily on Tumblr? The site is, for all intents and purposes, dead. A person can no longer become famous from the site, cannot make large quantities of money, and cannot reach a particularly wide audience. In fact, it has been stated that there are 'just over 300m monthly visits to Tumblr in December 2021…Facebook has an estimated 21bn monthly visits' (Moore 2022). So is this web weaving movement occurring despite the low engagement, or because of it? Poetry demands the slowing down of attention and therefore argues against the pace of over-consumption: it is in this way an anti-capitalist form. However, if one looks at poetry forms which have thrived on other sites, for example on Instagram, this potential anti-capitalism tends to be marred by the never-ending popularity contest of the internet. In order for one’s work to be seen on Instagram one must reckon with the ever-present capitalist malevolence of the algorithm. One has to meddle with their art, changing it to fit into restrictions dictated by a corporation. One might even need to post a selfie first, then the poem afterwards, to drive engagement, as Savannah Brown, a poet who has often spoken critically about the commercialisation of the artist, does below. If we compare her likes on the left, where the picture is presented next to the poem, to her likes on the right, which only contains a poem, we can see they more than triple when picked up by the algorithm. This is not the fault of the artist who simply wishes their work to be seen, but of the platform.



Tumblr is a different beast altogether. There is no character limit on text posts, and one can continue to reblog, adding images underneath the original post for as long as one wants. As a direct result of the lack of algorithm, creative communities thrive on Tumblr. People flock together based on interests and organic connections, much like art in a web weaving. Furthermore, in order for web weaving to be seen by a wide range of people, one does not have to have a large number of followers or change the content of one’s post in order to conform to an algorithm — one simply needs to tag it #web weaving. It is because of the community nature of the site that web weaving has managed to sustain itself and was even possible in the first place.


Web weaving has the potential to create a new poetic form. It is an interesting case study due to the fact that it could not have been created without connection: both the connections between the fragments and the connections provided by the internet. As everything2.com user estelore writes, in one of the few works of criticism to appear on web weaving, 'Rather than the separate components of a web weaving being included for their individual beauty or significant meaning, the beauty of a web weaving is understood to be the connections themselves, and the way those connections are made observable for the viewer.' It is because of this emphasis on connection that web weaving has the potential to become a powerful form of community art. By including self-published work within this form, the poet can place themselves in conversation with both well-known published artists and other unpublished poets and artists on Tumblr who can then add their own work to the piece. This creates a new mode of self-publishing, one which is free to access and free to create. The form is unselfish and community based, as the artist allows the understanding of each piece of their work to be changed by each addition. It would push viewers to create their own art in order to continue the conversation. The connection and community of the internet would be centred, at a time when social media has never felt less social. The form therefore would be only complemented by the nature of the site on which the web weavings are posted, as slower, more old-fashioned, social media like Tumblr offers the perfect canvas on which to create new, community forms.


The practice of web weaving creates a quilt-like ekphrastic community poem. As these ekphrastic poetry posts proliferate, they make browsing the site more like reading an internet poetry book than an interaction with social media. The site and the form offer exciting possibilities for art creation and poetry writing while other platforms such as Tik Tok and Instagram drive away artists due to their algorithms, and capitalist tendencies. Web weaving offers an exciting new democratic form for artists to connect, be in direct conversation with each other, and form communities around their shared art.


References


estelore. 2020. web weaving - Everything2.com. [online] Available at: https://everything2.com/title/web+weaving> [Accessed 25 May 2022]


Moore, E., 2022. Tumblr picks itself up again after years of struggle. [online] Ft.com. Available at: <https://www.ft.com/content/58e7398f-ac93-4f04-9d72-be3dcf26c196> [Accessed 25 May 2022].


Oumaima, O. 2022. ‘Web Weaving Interview’. Interview by Alessandra Thom

Web weaving: serratedpens. 2020 – via oumaimas.tumblr.com. serratedpens. [online] Available at: <https://serratedpens.tumblr.com/post/637533655538024448/kitchen-tables-peter-pereira-a-pot-of-red> [Accessed 25 May 2022].


Web weaving: iloveprideandprejudice2005, 2018 – via Oumaimas.tumblr.com. 2018. Web Weaving. [online] Available at: <https://oumaimas.tumblr.com/tagged/web+weaving/chrono> [Accessed 25 May 2022].


~


Text: Alessandra Thom


Published: 02/11/22

Comments


bottom of page