Anatomy of A Tumblr Trend part 2: the semantic network map
So Tumblr’s got this cool feature where, if you search for a tag, it gives you 3 related tags that are (presumably) most commonly used in combination with your search term.
So I searched for the 2 Tumblr trends I’m currently interested in - street goth and health goth - and followed these links to see what they connected to. This creates a kind of semantic network, a way to diagram how people on Tumblr link different style subcultures, based on the top three most-associated terms neighbouring each term.
The result: my crude map above, scribbled on a piece of paper.
The interesting thing: street goth and health goth aren’t connected.
They link only at the second degree, through “fashion” - which is supergeneric. People aren’t connecting the two terms any more closely.
Instead they split off with their own sets of associations. Health goth gets associated with normcore (K-HOLE’s term that’s been bizarrely adopted by mainstream fashion) and seapunk, the Tumblr trend that broke out into brief celebrity with Rihanna et al last year. This then links up to a much more visually-oriented (i.e. non-fashion) set of concepts - vaporwave, pale - ending up at net art and web art.
Meanwhile street goth is all about Hood By Air and Pyrex (labels), then “blvck”, streetwear, then trill, dope & other street slang.
So it looks like we’ve got here is two separate communities.
What separates them? Funnily enough for two monochrome aesthetics, it’s kind of black and white.
While both tags are a long way from monoethnic, street goth connects into hiphop streetwear culture which draws most directly from black culture. Whereas terms around health goth - normcore, hipster, grunge - are much whiter.
That’s really interesting.
(What the hell is streetgoth? Read my first Anatomy of a Tumblr Trend post here. For health goth, the source, a somewhat pretentious essay.)
Wonder if there is a hidden dimension of “people who know odd sub-genres titles and tend to tag”? Seems like Tumblr tags are like a social network within a network… those who tag, tag heavily, early, often, and are part of making the name a “thing”, before it is. Thinking about “pale” in particular. #pale doesn’t mean pale, it means #pale, and people using it as a tag are using it in the #pale sense. So maybe #pale and #goth have more in common via the #, than the fact that goth’s may or may not be actually pale?
Thinking about how #over #hashtagging #on #Twitter ruins the discursive value of the tag. But on Tumblr, the tag is like an extra feature that only really exists if it is deployed within the commonly accepted currency of particular tags, e.g. #pale #normcore #vaporwave, etc.