Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Serenity Gardens (12.03.18)

Doing December tunes at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Kat.

Last night's show at Serenity Gardens in Second Life was quite good, as most of them are. Before I talk about that, I want to mention something about the upcoming changes to Tumblr, the blogging platform.

It's sort of funny that I'm here on Google's blogging platform (Blogger) to mention something about a competing service, I suppose, but many people use multiple forms of blogging and social media for different purposes. Some of that is due to the nature of the platform itself. Twitter, for example, with its character limitation and ways of reaching followers, is very different from Facebook, which is in turn very different from Instagram. Tumblr, for those unaware, is set up sort of like Twitter (minus the character limits), with a dashboard that allows you to scroll through the feeds of any account you follow, arranged chronologically, with lots of content being re-blogged between users. Tumblr posts can be liked, shared, and commented on. It allows for longer text-based posts (like Facebook) and inclusion of images (like Instagram) and videos (like YouTube). That combination of features has made it ideal for what has become a sizable base of users... various kinds of artists, and people who enjoy NSFW content, aka porn. And yesterday, Tumblr made the announcement about upcoming changes in its community guidelines that will essentially remove all NSFW content on December 17.

Making a judgement on Tumblr's new community guidelines doesn't seem to have a right or wrong answer.

To backtrack a moment and give this some business context, Tumblr (like many online properties) started as an independent entity. This happens a lot. YouTube was a standalone platform until Google wrote them a big enough check to allow themselves top be absorbed under that corporate umbrella. Instagram was already successful when they were acquired by Facebook. Up until not that long ago, Tumblr also stood alone... but then they were bought by Yahoo, who was in turn bought by Verizon, who set up a subdivision called Oath to handle their digital content business. What does a company like Verizon want? To make money... duh. And how does a publicly-traded corporation make money? Via investment in their stock. So let's say you're Verizon, and you end up owning this blogging platform, and you find out that a huge portion of its existing content is user-created porn, and that your goal of encouraging investment is perhaps somewhat hampered due to the public's uneasiness about investing in what's essentially a giant porn site, with almost 450 million blogs and over 500 million monthly visitors. What do you do?

You probably do what Verizon has done, which seems fairly obvious... tell the users that there's a new set of guidelines that doesn't allow for the type of content they've been creating and posting. To be clear, I'm not here to make some argument in favor of porn. Especially in previous times, pornography has been inherently problematic on multiple levels, and that's been true of Tumblr as well, with instances of child porn and other aspects of adult content that are socially unacceptable and sometimes illegal. However, per many reports in the case of Tumblr, over the years it's become a sort of safe haven for consenting adults and the sorts of victimless porn that is not in any way against the law. An article from the BBC says it well:

"Unlike typical pornography sites, which overwhelmingly cater to men, and serve an often narrow definition of what is attractive, Tumblr has been a home for something else - content tailored at vibrant LGBT communities, or for those with tastes you might not necessarily share with all your friends.

If society deems it acceptable for any porn to be on the internet, then that acceptance must surely be inclusive. Unlike most of those other sites Mr D’Onofrio speaks of, Tumblr has been a space where different body types are sexually celebrated, not degraded."

Again, to be very clear, I'm not advocating for any kind of pornography. But what has grown from Tumblr is an interesting, almost unique case. There are entire communities there of people who find similar sexual interests, with a much larger percentage of female users than is typical in porn, who feel like the platform has been a safe haven for them to express themselves in ways that would not be possible otherwise. Those people will either find new sites that are more focused on adult content, or abandon that aspect of their lives altogether. The other aspect of this change would be funny, if it wasn't sort of sad. The algorithms being used to scan the millions and millions of posts of all Tumblr blogs is misidentifying many images as being against community guidelines... things that have absolutely nothing to do with porn at all. The ironic end result is that in the effort to make Tumblr more appealing to investors, Verizon/Oath may inadvertently end up removing the value of the platform's content and killing it entirely. As the same BBC article concluded, "That change means marginalised people, those who are all-too-used to being ostracised in their offline lives, now face it in their online space too. Some of the internet’s most-needed communities are now homeless."

Didn't You Have a Show?
Ah yes, the show. Over the weekend, as I often do before my bi-weekly shows at Serenity Gardens, I took a look at my set list and decided to a) make some additions and b) pull out some tunes that are only appropriate to play at this time of year, and I think that worked out very well at last night's show. I also had an unplanned moment of hilarity when I got a request for my silly cat-themed song "Pickles", but hadn't intended for it to be in my set, so I ended up doing a live mashup of that song with "Holly Jolly Christmas" and that was about as ridiculous as it seems it would be.

"Have a holly jolly... Pickles?" Photo by Kat.

Ilsa does a remarkable job of keeping the decor seasonally appropriate at Serenity Gardens. Photo by Kat.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
River (Joni Mitchell)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Here’s Where the Story Ends (The Sundays)
*Badge (Cream)
The Crystal Ship (The Doors)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
*Time in a Bottle (Jim Croce)
*Holly Jolly Pickles (Burl Ives/Zak Claxton)
Where Are We Now? (David Bowie)
Long December (Counting Crows)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles)
*Serenity Improv #792 (Zak Claxton)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Gigantic thanks to all who came out to Serenity Gardens and had a good time, with special kudos to the following people who helped support the show!
Kat Chauveau, go2smoky Resident, Asimia Heron, Tyche Szondi, Kat Claxton, TheaDee Resident, Aurelie Chenaux, my superb manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.

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