Michael Meeder From Virtuality to Reality: Tumblr’s Spirit Day as Public Response Com 607 Dr. D.

Brouwer January 30th, 2012

Foreword: "Internet, Listen Up" With this essay, I seek to re-establish the disconnect between virtuality and reality, as the subject of my critique is a graphic arts campaign appearing on the online community (re)blogging site Tumblr and the emergence, response, and criticism of this campaign made by members of the Tumblr community. Using graphic arts techniques and tools, many of my peers are now able to get their vision circulated on the World Wide Web, effecting change and affecting various communities where there exists a steep unbalance and loss of self-

efficacy. How can we turn this horrible emotion of shame which every gay person must navigate daily, into an outward display of non-shame or awareness of the repercussions of shame (self-harm) was truly a rhetorical miracle as all emergences are that run wild and become viral for all the best possible intended outcomes. I argue that the desired outcome was a restoration of balance in the gay community and a reinstatement of the gift many have for invention using creative tools and effective means to generate the centrifugal force necessary to rebalance a population of (in the U.S. alone) about 30 million of which could be LGBTQi people.

The Tumblr dashboard in purple. October, 20, 2010. 1. My Theory A rhetorical act sets in motion processes and opens possibilities and spaces for continued communication. A rhetorical motion can unlock

new knowledge, as it permits us to see and feel for ourselves new ways of knowing and being that were previously outside our circuits of thought. Though there are many kinds of rhetoric, I use the term here to discuss public and/or political acts as they affect the opinions of the many. Thus to reach such a "rhetorical vision"--whether planned for or not--the rhetorical act must negotiate its way through the human bodies in space that we are. Seeing is never separate from other sense modalities. It is by nature synesthetic, and synesthesia is by nature kinesthetic. Every look reactivates a many-dimensioned, shifting surface of experience from which cognitive functions habitually emerge but which is not reducible to them. It is on that abstract surface of movement that we “live” and locate. (Massumi 1998) Rhetoric, like the rhetorical act, surely needs to make a few "stops," signaling obvious cues along a spectrum of obvious to subtle as the message's intended goal is in turn critiqued by its public. During these "stops," the message--and to be sure we are no longer discussing a message but an idea or a feeling--must prick some ears up, and draw on our passions for it to reach beyond the target audience, to the outside walls of the social economy where ground-breaking work (experience, exchange, affect) is performed (witnessed, known). In this process, the rhetorical act--the persuasive call to action, affect, and ascension--

creates publics, shines light on who we are as outwardly known individuals (as opposed to an inward knowing of ourselves) and speaks to what we can do once that affect is realized. In an ever-spreading Internet-enabled social movement, affect generates affect. Rhetoric, the doctrine of controlling affects in political ensembles, is applied thymotics. . . . Part of the business of morally complex systems--that is, cultures--is the selfstimulation of its actors through an elevation of thymotic resources such as pride, ambition, the need for recognition, indignation, and the sense of justice. (Peter Sloterdijk, 20, 21) The assemblage of like-minded bodies is a natural part of the process, more of a second-tier affect: the initial wave of new information has entered and changed us; afterwards we are forced to reconsider who we are in light of this new information. Below, I discuss the effects and affects of rhetorical acts on the Internet. Although we are still digesting and theorizing models of network rhetoric, it can be said that the properties of communication are changed so that effects can "far outweigh" their causes or intentions (Hawk 2008). Any rhetorical act is but one of the many that led to its emergence. This one act, however, through the properties and strange loops of the Internet, can become an overnight phenomenon, reaching--for better or worse--those media outlets whose ease of access has made it a

possibility for things to become viral. Below I discuss the response to a cruel rhetorical act developed by a heterosexual college couple at Rutgers University. Whatever their intentions were, the effects of a live and secret webcast of their roommate's same-sex activity caused him to jump off a bridge. The attention this received to make national headlines came after six previous suicides in the U.S. youth population-one previously that year (2010) at Rutgers as well (under similar circumstances). Truly, our nation was facing a crisis. 2. Enter Tumblr The rhetorical act that tumbled into the dashboards (blogging interfaces) via the reposting masses of young publishers from Tumblr.com was--unlike most of the circulated content--not a joke, but it did indeed become a meme. Started by a white male in his early twenties, Tumblr is a new, young, and alternative part of the Social Web. Grand-looking, minimal and modern “themes” that users may interchange and customize easily, along with video, photo, text, and audio being functionally allowed, drew in millions of users. Additionally, at the second-tier appeal level, are features of pseudonym and alias exchanges. One may change their Tumblr username (http://username.tumblr.com) overnight, as well as their content or theme, making them unrecognizable the next day even to their followers--fellow users who have voluntarily opted to regularly receive another Blogger's posts on their dashboard feed. Part of the Tumblr

appeal is the reblogging function, making it capable of creating viral memes. Accordingly, built-in citation features make authorship and propriety retainable among a crowd of millions. A post that receives more than a thousand notes (the tally of reblogs and faves it receives) could be considered to be viral, but I don't wish to put numbers on this paper. I'm instead writing about a sea of motions and emotions, effects and affects. The post on Tumblr regarding the seven suicides went viral, reaching reblogged numbers in the tens of thousands. 3. Introduction: New Media, New Means Why are people even on the Internet? A better question might be, why do people get so emotionally affected by the Internet. Studies in the social sciences having to do with depression and Internet addiction show correlations between the Internet and relaxation-seeking (LaRose). Depression is not what people are seeking on the Internet--I guarantee you. Most of the unhappiness from using the Internet comes from the frustration experienced in being unable to calmly navigate its channels with ease. Thankfully, much of my generation has learned the fundamental parameters of digital media growing up. Because of natural affinity and the media-saturated environment of 1980s and 1990s America, we became inspired to be involved in another world, a half-human world. A third postulate of why people use the Internet would be to reap the benefits of a greater imagined community. However, I am focusing on affect and so I wish to use the social science

findings that pertain to affect (which they define as any feeling negatively noticeable). The difference with a rhetorical definition of affect is that, to me, affect can include positive emotions, or at least the belief in positive outcomes. The heuristics of blogging (the ordered processes of posting) are certainly visible on Tumblr’s interface, though it is not a news site, nor a centrally controlled media empire. Rather, its contributors are able to create their own microcosms as an experiment, all along building a potential support network to keep their sense of social worth at “normal” and out of “stress” (negatively noticed affect) traps that some sites are infected by. For example, some sites may not police or regulate behavior well, creating space for troll-users who get their enjoyment by getting a rise out of their online colleagues. Frustrating in its deceiving nature, these ongoing mindf**ks have the potential and motivation to make you emotionally vulnerable, which opens the door for continued online bullying. Cognitive psychology has numerous case studies on people , computers, and the two variables are: “stress” which is negative and creates a depression; and a continued downward belief in one’s own capacity pings back to the human conscious thinking brain. The consolidated Tumblr outfit helps a brain that is trying to get its positive, constructive, and social supportive daily-required intake. Synched with one's Twitter posts, YouTube, Feed Burner, Vimeo, or RSS feed. This company (Tumblr) was never unpopular or criticized; it spoke

the language of a generation waiting for such ease in publishing and reposting published content. Using the studies mentioned above (LaRose), it becomes quite clear as to why Tumblr is a popular destination. Its ever-developing realized imagined communities (publics) are active, and the ease of functionality and customization in using pre-developed graphic themes makes one's experience calm without consternation or excess difficulties. The Tumblr ethos is also well developed, group-enforced and materially present. Both at the user- and administrator-levels, the Tumblr trust reassures you it’s a smooth operator, and when users experienced blackouts from the site's overwhelmed serves in late 2010, its swift response reassured the community of the safety and commitment they had to fixing their end of the malfunctions. (Additionally, the "error screen" rhetorically shows the users that their site isn't only fun and popular, but it may be too popular at this moment, and this reassures them of the presence of others.) So far it hasn’t made a dime; part of the Tumblr ethos can be said to be anti-capitalistic. There are no advertisements on the site, and going into the future, making money off the site will be a hard problem to solve. The site does sell its premium and more marketable user-coded themes. As these are integral to the site’s functionality and appeal, the designer-user (a more technically-advanced and lucrativelyopportunistic type of user) is able to produce new themes with CSS and

HTML. Different types of themes (minimal, textual, photographiccentered, etc.) may allow more or less user-input configurations than others (colors, fonts, what to include/exclude). This “second skin” propels the user to explore the Tumblr microcosm as it instills both familiarity and curiosity with its quasi-consistencies. Too much familiarity (as with the blogspot.com themes, which aren't customizable without great difficulty) ensures boredom, while too little familiarity obfuscates the otherwise clearly-cut Tumblr ethos and signs of a rich community of communities. There aren’t any especially horrendous ways to abuse the users of Tumblr because sexuality is not always discernable. In fact, it would be difficult--if not impossible--to know how many users one is connected to who are boys, girls, straight, gay, or even across the street. The site provides a cloak of ubiquitous commonality; its design reflects of the types of persons (still unknown) using it. The fun is in part due to this mystery. Additionally, one may change their user alias with ease as mentioned above. The Tumblr ethos hints at a strong community of character by way of design features, which is important in maintaining a sense of self-worth, online. Looking around the site, the community gives a strong vibe of spirit and individuality, making Tumblr a prime place of emergence for the Spirit Day phenomenon, which is the focal point of my words below. Conflicts arise in the form of "replies," to posts or as "questions." Some posts invite this conflict, realizing it’s where the

meaning is made. Most users aren't bothered by personal questions and proudly answer them right out or throw the stress back on the questioner, saying, "Turn off your anonymous and I'll answer." To set the scene further, here is an excerpt from Sherry Turkle (a psychologist at MIT): Of course, the need for a safe space, the need for a "moratorium" where you can try new things out and work through troubling issues does not end with adolescence. We revisit the issues of identity over and over in the course of adult life. In my view, cyberspace is one of the key places where these issues are being played out. It is a big part of what makes the Internet so compelling. (Sherry Turkle)

Compelling indeed. I’d like to point out the following Tumblr as visiting it will give you the minute details that I don’t have time to go over here. Please visit http://lestermacjesse.tumblr.com/ now or at anytime during this essay to get a closer look the backstories. All the victims and their stories, pictures, and all on Tumblr. Then we come to some of the posts that show photos and instruction.

Figure 2.1 this comes in 2011, asking those on Tumblr (or wherever) to pledge to wear purple

“The combination of evidence and instruction that characterizes much documentary practice necessarily entails various rhetorical and aesthetic techniques that combine fact with feeling, information with affect, and factuality with polemic” (David Phillips, 62). The Spirit Day meme, and its resulting conflict, offers the rhetorical critic a prime example of a community’s publics negotiating the boundaries of its discourse. That is, when one looks at the Spirit Day "comment wars" [arguments in the comments sections after a blog post or posts specifically made to annoy, defend, attack, or stupefy the audience] on Tumblr and other parts of the Social Web, there are discernable incongruities. I would attribute these outstanding,

unsympathetic voices to a site's overall ethos. However I wish to focus on the rhetorical vision and magic that blossomed out of some quite ugly events, and leave aside the comment wars for another day.

Figure 2 shows Kathy Griffin sporting purple

To consider Spirit Day as a meme is not the entire truth, and it discredits actual gains made to the community. Yes, it is "a meme on Tumblr" but off-screen, the <Spirit Day> ideograph has long existed, usually in the heteronormative communities of school spirit, which is tied up with sports and other masculine-dominant gender roles. The massive flow of Spirit Day content during its peak on “10/20/2010” left not a soul in the dark. Actually, it’s hard to say how many of its users were aware that the interface had gone purple for LGBT advocacy. Even though the mainstream news may have presented the story as a hopeless response with no action: "wearing purple? okay....good luck with that" might have been their syntax as they left out the fact that it was/is a response to the straight Rutgers couple whose act caused a death, a response to all the hallway verbal slants, and everything in between. One wonders what their reaction might have been; did they know that this was the rhetorical response to their hurtful actions? If the police could not charge the couple with anything substantial, then the court of public opinion would have to deliberate. Not much deliberation was needed on the reportedly "mostly gay" Tumblr site. All of Tumblr was discussing this massively viral movement that was started by one of its members.

Tumblr post during October 2010. We take our cues from the way the Internet (web, chat, etc.) signs us to. It simply says you can go anywhere on here and when you find a destination that lifts your spirit up with inspiration and you hope it will transform you, that the interfaces and features feel capable of transforming you, exposing you to the sea of viral and random post content, as the feed of each Tumblr sight you “follow” by the click of one button. Besides appreciating the content made by others, is the ability to share the thoughts, finding, or creations that you have made. One surrounds herself

with her own creations and postings, generating praise, bulking up the user's self-capacity and decreasing online frustration (LaRose et al). 4. A Return to the Topic at Hand: Bullying Queer bullying [bashing] is nothing new. At least, this is what my grandfather told me over the holiday break. “I’ve seen it,” he recalled as he told me about the experiences he had with befriending a gay black student at an all-white high school. “The boys and I would go to the football games every Friday, and so I would see Jim [the name of the huge, muscly black boy who “walked on his tippy toes”] and ask him if he’d be attending the game.” “I’d like to, but I have no car, you see, so I can’t get there,” he replied. “Well, you can come with us, I’ll pick you up,” my grandfather replied, and instead of dwelling on the bullying aspect our conversation then turned towards other subjects. I am not surprised to hear that bullying was something my grandfather witnessed in his high school’s hallways. I’ve had no experiences being bullied myself, or even in a fight, but that’s largely because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself and sadly, let the cruelty instead fall on those more outwardly effeminate. One good friend in high school had to withdraw from the graphic arts program we were in together after suffering physical harm in the school parking lot. The graphic art program was located in

another school, which also served the technical skills classes of food preparation and cuisine, as well as remedial programs for “BD” or behavioral disorder students. Years later, there would actually be a stabbing that took place during a food preparation class, involving a chef’s knife. Putting the graphic arts program next to the behavioral disorder classes with access to sharp knives would have been just a recipe for serious harm to my friend who had to drop the class, and I’m happy to say he’s alive and healthy and making art as well as teaching classes. However, the bullying pattern that my grandpa is familiar with surely continues to inflect harm on communities, sending a strong message to the queers that aren’t out loud enough to be considered abrasive, that this type of affect (gay) was not acceptable to the persons who had violent capabilities. The new sad twist with online media (and other media like radio and TV) is how “outing” someone to the public by way of recorded interaction, to be then re-broadcast by someone not capable perhaps of inflicting physical harm. To be sure, the rhetorical affect of online exposure and IRL [in real life] physical or verbal abuse can be considered outside the limits of our imaginations, but also to be sure, it is an extremely negative affect, [if only] especially for the direct receiver of such punishment. As affect leads to effect, the result can be too much to bear for the oppressed, who has nowhere to seek resources, a shamed reputation (despite talents and hard work put in on

say, the violin, as with the Rutgers student), and sees no redemption within sight, making suicide a popular alternative for the direct receivers. Indirect receivers get the message: avoid detection, or, avoid direct proof. Speaking of direct proof, which Brittany used when she designed the purple post, “the aim of much documentary photography is to effect a change in perception and thereby persuade its audiences of the need for social action (typically the amelioration of a particular social event)” (Phillips, 64).

” A Tumblr post – one of the kind I saw on my screen in October of 2010.

“The combination of evidence and instruction that characterizes much documentary practice necessarily entails various rhetorical and aesthetic techniques that combine fact with feeling, information with affect, and factuality with polemic (ibid.).” David Phillips’ (quoted

above) meditation pairs nicely with the Spirit Day images off Tumblr.

To situate the rhetorical events at hand in a critical framework, I must elaborate on my conception of rhetoric and its places of habitation (where one experiences it). In today’s current online/offline duality, a much-needed framework of network rhetoric is being vastly developed but so far has not been canonized. One place to turn in this absence is towards ecological rhetoric, as the Social Web is nothing less than an ecological system. 5. Process and Rhetorical Ecology “A public seems to be self-organized by discourse, but in fact requires preexisting forms and channels of circulation” (Warner 75, qtd. in Edbauer et al 22). In reaching out to talk to her public of online bloggers (Tumblr), the rhetor needed the preexisting forms of rainbow symbols and the “spirit day” model as her method to raise awareness. Yet, I am not about to critique her composition nor its forms, but instead I want to focus on the productive processes that this production put into play. Edbauer et al write about conceiving rhetorics in event-ful, or ecological, terms in “Unframing models of public distribution” (2009). The approach to rhetoric, according to Edbauer, should be from an ecological stance, not a situational one. Supporting my focus on the ways rhetoric jumped off the (web)page and onto the Tumblr Dashboard and into streets, Rosa Eberly gives flight to the following: “rhetoric is a

process, not a substance that inheres in the collection of traits within a given text” (Edbauer 21). She continues: “Rhetoric is thus not only understood but practiced as the powerful architectonic productive art that it is” (Eberly 293, qtd. In Edbauer 21, italics their own). Thus to critique this social movement, which is (after all), a movement of ideas, one must take a processual stance. A critic cannot stop on the original text/post, but instead on the ways this rhetoric was produced and reproduced. “Emphasizing production should stress the ways in which rhetorical productions are inseparable from lived encounters of public life” (Edbauer 21). The “publics created through affective channels” (Edbauer 21) are the audience I intend to focus on. “We encounter rhetoric” (Edbauer 23, italics their own); it must therefore be discussed in an experiential manner, as something ecological and in transition. Though the Spirit Day on October 20, 2010 is where my focus begins to leave off, it does not imply that this rhetoric stopped, or arrived at any final solution. Therefore, a critique of this purple display in terms of affect is not centered on effects, but instead process. How does something go viral? Why? This question continues to fascinate.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by Literature professor Kenneth Goldsmith in its last issue lamenting plagiarism’s encroaching place within writing and composition practices, citing works of literature from contemporary authors like Jonathan Letham. While

Goldsmith mourns this unstoppable, yet ever-encroaching practice, he simultaneously embraces it in a post-modern, dancing-in-the-rain kind of formalism. Citing jazz and hip-hop musicians, painting before the photograph, and photography influencing the motion picture, we come from a long line of replications. On the way technology and the Internet have railroaded mainstream and avant-garde [literary] techniques, Goldsmith concludes by saying, “the conditions of digital culture have unexpectedly forced a collision, scrambling the once-sure footing of both camps. Suddenly we all find ourselves in the same boat, grappling with new questions concerning authorship, originality, and the way meaning is forged.” I think Goldsmith has tapped into a key fissure in the realization that this digital age enables us to copy and paste artifacts that were not created by ourselves, and that this somehow fractures the concept of the self. One might argue that it reinforces the concept of the self through identifying with the community at large, strengthening one’s ethos. Another way of seeing it would be to symbolically place importance on the shared relation, making the artifact “nobody’s” creation. This type of “relational aesthetics” (Bourriaud) signals the arrival of new forms of knowing, conceptions of identity, and explorations of the activities within such a post-human community--one that is mediated and augmented. How rhetoric is functioning within each of these ongoing changes is quite beyond us at the moment, but I

would like to share one instantiation of this brave new world’s network rhetoric as it played out during October of 2010. 6. Background and Story In 2010, a rash of gay youths committed suicide in the face of antigay bullying that online technology had enabled, or helped spread. The response that I saw on the traditional mainstream media was detached; a sad tragic cluster of deaths was reported, eliminating any possibility for a passive audience to mobilize or do something. What began as a sixteen year-old’s blog post in Canada, who claims she was only reacting to the tiresome, seemingly innocuous “that’s gay” expression she heard in her school’s hallways and lunchroom. She was tired of this kind of speech, and how it could become something more serious down the line, citing the suicides as direct evidence. In 2010, Tumblr’s ascendancy as the fastest-growing social media blogging platform (a rise of 20%) reinvigorated the blog format, allowing social networking frameworks and design features that previous sites like Blogger missed the mark. Like Twitter, Tumblr enables real-time messaging, content uploading, and user-generated graphics that give the user agency in various new modalities and constructions. It was on the dashboard feed, usually populated with memes, stunning graphics and photography, and generally “cute” objects that attract the eye. Amidst the polar bears cursing, and animated .gifs on the dashboard, I first encountered the six faces against a purple background. Compared

to the graphics that weren’t trying to get you to do anything (weren’t rhetorical), it looked cheesy. But in flipping my approach to it as not something to be superficially reblogged, but as something deeper and monumental going on, I eagerly posted it (eager to share in the display of response to the events). I didn’t quite know where to place “this” form--although it quickly populated the dashboard with a lovely amount of conflict in the commentary section. Something was changing; momentum was building and for once, the ball was in our court, we were poised to take a shot, and we were running towards the ball. This trend did not stop with the faces graphic campaign. Nor did it stop with Tumblr, as YouTube equally put its foot in (as a vehicle) with the selfproduced and self-written video by Sarah Silverman, who tied the issue of the youth suicides to a larger culture where D.A.D.T. had yet to be repealed, taking the issue to a realm whereby democratic political solutions were attainable. Tumblr, meanwhile, honored the tragic events and their trending statistics by silhouetting the “Dashboard” page of the site (where users’ feeds and posting tools are, among other settings) in the color purple, signifying not gay pride, but peaceful relations in light of the bullying that led to such tragedies. There was also user-participation in this honorarium; one day in October that same month was promoted as a day to honor the victims and promote peace by wearing purple. The results on the street were noticeable to those aware, and the affect visceral instead of abstract.

My Take on Tumblr The site(s) one creates begins with the user. Next the user may want to venture more outward, and make one of those avatars in the dark a partner to compose with to no end; only lack of experiential knowledge and skills could impede any digital online project. There are many blogs that by now have become successful because of their continual branding, rebranding, and confidence observable in the best blog sites. The Social Web can provide you with enough deflective

gear that you are able to interact, make claims, launch rhetorics you’ve invented, or rhetorical visions you want others to see and spread the word to get the word out because you have something to say. Even if all you end up sharing is a personal thought, your followers will eventually be able to appreciate your underlying vibrational intensity. To edit and repost very soothing, efficacy posted in composing and (re)circulating trending public ideas. A critique of a discourse’s notable rhetorics is measurable by Tumblr’s note system, a small heart next to the “+Follow” upper-right hand corner stable constant. With a click, the black reappears as a red heart and your vote of appreciation is tallied by Tumblr. Aside from this social capital currency keeping artists and writers relevant in the first place (on a day-to-day basis), they may not even with to compose or publish and simply follow either specific (and sparse) Tumblrs too filter out randomness, viral and unfamiliar (or overfamiliar) subject matter, or the user can follow hundreds of Tumblrs

so that the tumbling is virtually burying you in its wake as you browse the feeds. Each “fave” and “reblog” of a post, attaches the usernames of those who reposted or red-hearted the individual post’s content. Effect and affect constitute a framework for assessing the glacial to virulent wildfire of geographical movement- in social capitol, content distribution, liminal circulation patterns, routes and reworking its architecture continually. The nodes in a network are variable because of the pliability of the network’s strong and weak ties between its nodes, which can be either sparse (unpopulated) to dense (very heavy with traffic and publics, individuals, and 3rd parties). 7. Wearing Purple The unexpected popular response to this teenager’s idea for a “Spirit Day” to take place on October 20, 2010 will be discussed in terms of network rhetoric’s new paradigm, and instantiate some theoretical concepts put forward by Byron Hawk. By identifying how those voices are or can be deployed in ways that (re)construct more emancipatory power relations and focus on communities often excluded from critical analysis…the mundane, the oppressed, the oppositional,” (Middleton et. al., 389) we may turn virtuality into reality. This method is appropriate because my object of analysis will shed light on “participant- and text-driven perspectives on rhetoric,” (ibid., 390). I will “’crack open the [rhetorical] culture’ being

examined to demonstrate how meaning functions in a bounded context,” (ibid.) The “vernacular discourses” that appear on virtually every site featuring a story about Spirit Day, and in particular the ruptures Tumblr’s ethos as it witnessed a backlash, furthering the need for the bloggers to rhetorically invent rationale for their stance: Spirit Day is honoring not everyone who has been bullied, but specifically (the first year at least) LGBTQ youths. Through these exchanges on Tumblr and the lived-experience of others and myself who participated by simply wearing purple that day, witnessed and performed “distribution of images, discourses, identities, bodies, and institutions onto a field of action” (ibid.). “Rhetorical field methods explore the dialectic between rhetorical texts and the lived experiences though which those texts are encountered and come to have significant meanings” (ibid., 392). 8. Critical Complexities The focus, then, will be reconfiguration of “sedimented ways of doing rhetoric and power as through the invention of “minor rhetorics by these communities” (ibid.). Still following Middleton et. al., my focuses will be less tied up with outcomes and more on provocative possibilities. For instance, Vancouver held a candlelight vigil on the evening of October 20, and the movement arguably broadened to be a message decrying any form of bullying. I wish to deduce what is actually new among the mentioned components. My ideographic analysis will pick up after I explore some

theory of virtuality, process, ecological rhetoric, and the agents involved in the late summer of 2010. Since the number of suicides is so astonishingly high for that summer and autumn, I’m only able to focus on the fact that it happened, drawing out details as they are needed. McGee’s ideographs are appropriate to further my study. As tools, ideographs are open to mutability and contextual cues, which makes their invented instantiated emergence into the community quite persuasive. In waters of networked, ecological frameworks that have just begun to be mapped or framed for future analyses, I am glad this tool is at my disposal. However, my stake in the ideographs as McGee has pinned them as will forbid me from plunging all the way down the concrete foundation of method that pads the sides and paves the bottom of the rabbit hole. Living in a pliable world of virtual flow, I shall simple proceed as I do intuitively, and self-discover a unique approach as I meander along uncertainty in both, and it’s so apparent I can’t believe it’s become something splitting me in two perhaps, the back and forth from the reality to the virtuality during my research process. Questions for the rhetorical critic while examining these sites will necessarily involve an entire overview of the value of authorship; is it even possible to trace public ideas or campaigns back to a single person (as with Knowyourmeme.com), and if so, does knowing the authorship origin even matter? Demographic awareness (audience) is also something the critic must investigate, for the age, location, sex, gender,

and other personal information of online users are not always visible on their blog headings. The critic may look beyond demographics unless necessary. I also will not be focused on LGBTQ issues, as the earlier narrative I recounted may insinuate. The gay youth suicide reaction was meaningful to me, not merely because I am gay, but because of the rhetorical affect I observed all around me. I will be looking for affect like this on these sites. Each site allows users to post direct responses to the published video, blog piece, and tweet. When possible, I will be looking at the interpersonal relations that somehow facilitate a rhetorical gesture’s emergence. Finally, I will evaluate my approach, which is to say I can already see how both successful and unsuccessful campaign/public idea/memes will be instrumental to analyze, not only the most popular. The confusion and complexity of the Internet’s/Tumblr’s continual, exponential growth usually doesn’t allow much room for stopping and clarifying what was said and by whom. Once the giant purple tsunami had reached the shores of the most distant continent and returned, the media had to go to their source, Brittany McMillan. The ever-continuous stream of encouragement to wear purple on Tumblr did not spotlight Brittany. The Tumblr ethos is more communitarian as with many online societies. The originator of the text is not as important as the fact that the text is being circulated widely and is inherently participatory. To a blog microsphere like Tumble who is just itching for (mediated)

interaction in every possible way (text, quotations, text-on-photographs, reblogging that glittery cartoon, uploading music, user-generated graphics, and embedding YouTube videos, and sound cloud music players, and eagerly looking forward to any reaction from your own posts. Whether someone clicked the heart in the upper right hand corner of your post, thus faving it, or perhaps went as far as to reblog it to their own site, or occasionally some Tumblr themes allowed one’s followers to directly reply to them. For instance, a blogger can win you over with his wit and words, but suck the air from your lungs and boil your blood at the lack of a means of contacting, replying publicly, or otherwise dishing out some feedback/criticism. If none of these participatory gestures were in play, then perhaps you (as many users do) advertise that they are taking questions, further enticing a response to this invitation by stating they have allowed anonymous questions for the next three hours or so. A community starving for interaction (as most online junkies are, and bloggers are quite hungry for niche media consumption and/or content sharing) quickly took up the Spirit Day concept, which tied the familiar <Spirit Day> ideograph to <gay sympathizer> for a novel development, among other memes and clusters that could be richly utilized by a rhetorical critic. The extra kick was the real life participation: the action of picking out any shade of preference similar to purple, making for a great photo opportunity (to validate the virtual

Tumblr community’s value intentions in “reality” among the public at large). This viral property of the <Spirit Day> generated excitement that in turn can quickly gain traction, or a weight of sorts, and eventually reestablish equilibrium, in the affect of those who became deeply concerned about the youth suicides. 9. Traditional Approach to Network-level Viral. But back to Brittany, since the traditional media had found their source. In a static text/image traditional interview, MTV Online (which heads the youth market, making this seem also a youth issue or <gay><youth> issue—an issue which surely always existed in the form of violence toward gay behavior outwardly displayed when an oppressor gets the opportunity to inflict verbal and physical harm on his oppressed, making real and true their “straight” cultured values as being the superior and dominant. Her idea, Spirit Day, was a wild success, spreading awareness about LGBT-targeted teen bullying on a huge scale. This year's is bound to be even bigger, and you'd better believe the MTV Act offices are packed with purple garb (even the MTV logo has gone purple, too). We pinned down the campaign's busy founder, 17-year old Brittany McMillan, to find out how one person can make a difference, why straight people have a stake — and how best to rock your violet. (mtv.com)

Now compare the above text from MTV with this quote from Edbauer et al: No single text can create a public. Nor can a single voice, a single genre, or even a single medium. All are insufficient. . . , since a public is understood to be an ongoing space of encounter for discourse. It is not texts themselves that create publics, but the concatenation of texts through time. . . . Between the discourse that comes before and the discourse that comes after, one must postulate some kind of link. And the link has a social character; it is not mere consecutiveness in time, but a context of interaction. (Edbauer, 62) Above, when I said that a rhetorical act has to make “stops” I mean that those stops have a context of interaction as well as social character. These can be seen in the replies and comments as the “rhetorical vision” (the purple post like the one above) was tumbled and retumbled across the site. I am borrowing the term “rhetorical vision”

from Ernest Bormann. Although I did not use his approach, I have assumed that the “fantasy approach” would work well for some social movement rhetorics. I’d like to pause and return to the college Literature professor’s earlier piece. "Brought on by technology and the Internet, our notion of the genius—a romantic, isolated figure—is outdated. An updated notion of genius would have to center around one's mastery of information and its dissemination. [Marjorie] Perloff [the poet critic] has coined another term, "moving information," to signify both the act of pushing language around as well as the act of being emotionally moved by that process. She posits that today's writer resembles more a programmer than a tortured genius, brilliantly conceptualizing, constructing, executing, and maintaining a writing machine." Following Edwin Black’s argument that there is no difference between poetry and rhetoric, we can take Perloff even further, getting a glimpse perhaps of the future. Brian Massumi has been a beacon in this, operating in a middle ground and familiar with the philosophies of Gilles and Deleuze, having translated the French to our English. Perhaps he can translate to us, while discussing architecture and virtuality below.

From the “artful genius” perspective, this may seem like a cowardly abdication of creativity... The process does not of itself generate a completed form. It generates a proliferation

of forms. The continuity of the deformational variation can be cut at any point, any number of times. The constraints can be tweaked and set in motion again to experimentally generate whole new series of formal separations. The outcome of any given run cannot be predicted. But a choice must be made: a set of forms must be selected to provide the foundation of the actual design. The second area of arbitrariness is in the selection. The overall process is an analogue one. Such constraints as taste, function, preference, and cost are analogically translated into virtual forces, which are then set into variation, and analogically translated back into taste, function, preference, and cost as embodied in the final, composite sign-form. The movement is not from the simplicity of the elementary to the sophistication of the complex. Rather, it is from one arena of complexity to another. Complexes of complexity are analogically launched into interaction. Each complex is separated not by a self-enclosure, but by an analogical gap that the process must leap. (Brian Massumi 1997, hypertext.) Why is the Tumblr dashboard purple? For this reason - for an arbitrary reason to many, especially the alternate stance crowds who see/saw Breast Cancer awareness as an equally if not more deserved

cause to change the constant dark blue background to a velvety purple, a direct hue cue to a select few that today they are creating literate acts that open constructive spaces for confrontation and ever-culturally valuable matter of visibility over invisibility, momentarily constrained in time but poking through our universal terministic screen. For Burke, some of the most significant problems in human behavior resulted from instances of symbols using human beings rather than human beings using symbols. Here we have a case of human beings using symbols, from the circulation of new image compositions of seven faces and names that naturally appear in succession with greater force. Burke saw literature as "equipment for living," offering folk wisdom and common sense to people and thus guiding the way they lived their lives. The plethora of examples on Tumblr that make sense of this “folk wisdom” are images, often moving .gifs, with text over the image, the text being a subtitle for the screen’s mouth moving, sometimes adorably altered for comedic affect, but holding true to a self-sensible “knowledge” about experience and life: breakups, troubles, overcoming obstacles, meta-views of situations and the angle to approach them, the dashboard reflecting the memes which any subculture or entire Tumblr culture at times, identifies with, in the act of faving or reblogging the media, re-posting it, as it were and adding your name to the list of thousands in a published chain of likes and reblogs, in essence keeping created knowledge in circulation, folk wisdom at its

finest, and quotation by citation, up to the original poster of that content, to the tune of the tens of thousands. The genesis of Tumblr is that any creative act of literacy is also a constructive stage for conflict (Flower 1995). And those who enable this simple, yet godlike, creation ability in their mental inventions and reinventions as well as bickering or quibbling about the meaning all speak to the non-passivity of the audience. I recently (and do find frustration with this myself) found a post that remarked that stated how Tumblr accounts which have not allowed “reply to this post” is tantamount to being silenced to -- or “unfollowed” by their audience. After all, we are inviting space for conflict and co-creation of meaning even when it seems almost senseless to continue conversations with people of a made-up mentality that is pegged deeper than the transitive virtual screen can persuade -- IRL (in real life) they have taken their values from. But, putting value into real life from the virtual is just the friction and excitement of a "real-time" personal and personable preference-parameter-setting, as we can see the “molecules in motion” that “never work themselves out with one answer” (Flower 1995), just as a motion-animation image (.gif) ceaselessly loops as if stuck on repeat, yet sometimes invite the viewer/audience to experience each loop (imagine a loop over another loop with different syncopations) continually create the images meaning in their own imagined realities. The correspondence is a processual retake. It is the process

of generating the new from an intuitive interplay of constraints and arbitrarily that keeps the continuity across the leaps. The correspondence pertains to the conditions of emergence rather than the actuality of the emerged. It other words, it is virtual. The identity analogically stretched across the gaps of differentiation is “machinic”: what is repeated is autonomization, same process, different at every take. (Massumi, ibid.) So when Massumi talks about the “analogical gap that process must leap” one may attribute such analogies as popping off the color pallet and onto the universal dashboard to leaping then into Real Life by wearing the color, essentially a non-textual shorthand for “Spirit” by which means honoring and memorializing in temporal yet monumental ways - October 20, 2010, Spirit Day, Wear Purple Today, Prevent Suicide, support gay youth, Gay Youth as a silenced and now dead and dying hole in the fabric of humanity and humanism. The Tumblr ethos was thus challenged to rise / transcend the argument by imagining a world where everything was the “Spirit Stance” [my term]. 10. The <Spirit Day> Brittany’s effort and subsequent popularity (through reblogging and traction) re-invented the modern conception of <spirit day> , weighing it down heavily and linking it to <gay suicide> and <LGBT> as seen by the relevant hash-tags in the footer of a post.

What is really new here? The re-invention of the <spirit day> as a queer-positive social movement, is at the same time, a direct response to the hate, an indirect response to the two straight students whose liveposting on the Internet caused their classmate’s suicide. It is my belief that, because we as agents are seemingly unable to reply publicly in an easily-understood way to decry the hateful intentions of such acts and the acts they generate, an act was carried out (the invention of Spirit Day) to enable us as bodies to publicly display our opposition to anti-gay activities in a cohesive, boundless, and powerful response. Just as prosecutors couldn’t lay any blame on anyone as a direct cause to the Rutgers suicide, there is no direct cause of Spirit Day. Rather, its conception is based on various prior forms (that I could argue are hetero-dominant/sports related, etc.) that everyone involved agreed to co-reinvent along with Brittany, who merely helped the rhetoric gain traction by merging <LGBT> with <Spirit> - a conception that was already present in the gay flag, or rainbow flag. The color purple is a notable difference this flag has with similar rainbow flags for peace (as seen during the anti-war protests in Europe). 11. Conclusion Spirit Day in October of 2010 was concocted on Tumblr as a response to the anti-gay messages and their deadly consequences. This site's viral capacity rocketed the movement's members, opening up new spaces and allowances for the public at large to respond to this mean-

ness. One can take action. At the very least, one can wear purple (practice peace). One can be an advocate against bullying. One can stop a show of aggression in the hallways, lend a helping hand to a stranger during a confrontation; one is not powerless. "Reblog if you agree."

Afterword The following quote was posted on January 21 by reddit.com as they (and other sites) protested the SOPA/PIPA bills currently threatening online communities. Their chosen color of resistance: black (for blackout). “It was a magic feeling watching hundreds of thousands of you check in on reddit after a day of real-world rallies, signing petitions, igniting elected officials' phones and fax machines, and sounding off online. We've made our voices heard. reddit and the larger internet community now have a big opportunity. So, what's next? That is up to you.” (reddit.com)

References

Bourriaud. Relational Aesthetics. 1998.

Edbauer, Jenny. “Unframing models of public distribution: From rhetorical situation to rhetorical ecologies.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 35:4, 5-24 (2005). Digital URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02773940509391320

Hawk, Byron. “Toward a rhetoric of network (media) culture: notes on polarities and potentiality.” Plugged in :biotechnology, rhetoric, and culture in a posthuman age. Edited by Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham. Hampton Press: Cresskill, N.J., 2008.

LaRose, Eastin, & Gregg. “Reformulating the Internet Paradox: Social Cognitive Explanations of Internet Use and Depression.” Journal of Online Behavior 1.2

Massumi, Brian. “Sensing the Virtual, Building the Insensible.” Hypersurface Architecture. Edited by Stephen Perrella, Architectural Design (Profile no. 133), vol. 68, no. 5/6, May-June 1998, pp. 16-24. Free Access Digital URL: http://www.brianmassumi.com/english/essays.html.

Sloterdijk, Peter. Rage and Time. Columbia University Press: New York, NY, 05/2010.

Turkle, Sherry. “Chapter 31: the Cyberanalyst.” Digerati: Encounters with the Cyber Elite. Edited by John Brockman. Digital excerpt: http://www.edge.org/documents/digerati/Turkle.html

Flower, Linda. The Construction of Negotiated Meaning: A social cognitive theory of

writing. Southern Illinois UP: Carbondale, 1994.

Phillips, David. “Actuality and Affect in documentary photography and authorship mine.” Using Visual Evidence. Edited by Richard Howells and Robert W. Matson. McGraw Hill: Open University Press, New York, NY, 2009.

Bormann, Ernest G. Communication Theory. New York : Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1980. Brock, Bernard L, Robert L. Scott, and James W. Chesebro. Methods of Rhetorical Criticism: A Twentieth-Century Perspective. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990. Print.

Skinnell, Ryan. “Circuitry in Motion: Rhetoric(al) Moves in YouTube's Archive.”

Enculturation 8 (2010): http://enculturation.gmu.edu/circuitry-in-motion

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