→ 25 May 12 at 2 am
Pragmatics and the mutation of icons
What I find fascinating is how tumblr, as a system, can completely obscure the origin of an image by reaching out of its own domain and scrambling results. The original poster adds an image with no tags or commentary, and it then gets reblogged so much that performing a search in google images yields only the multitudes of tumblr blogs hosting the image.
It also makes me wonder how much the image has been altered. Then you have two levels of obscurity. 1) who was the original artist? 2) how did another person come across this seemingly source-less image and manage to post this without leaving information as well?
How many originals am I actually seeing?
It goes beyond images. What about the meaning of the image? How many of these images have been completely taken out of context but come to be vastly understood in another context? Take the image above. I cannot say the amount of times I have seen it in a blog with primarily dark themes even though this comes from the comedy short “Look Around You: Ghosts” (normally I just follow notes on tumblr to see if anyone else has tagged it. Finally found this out from googling for a while).
Or, for example, I have seen, within a sea of BDSM imagery, photos of young tumblr women posting their self harm or evidence of abuse by a partner.
I feel like this treatment of images is unprecedented. I cannot think of another point in history where this happened (except maybe in trade situations, though that doesn’t involve the amount of people here). Meanings of words or works get transmuted very easily.
But while people could come up with vastly different interpretations of meaning for an IMAGE, today the context of where it was found figures into its meaning in an enormous way. Think about the link of meaning in “image” and “iconic.” Are images still necessarily iconic?
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