25 votes

The Rise and Fall of Internet Art Communities, from DeviantArt to Tumblr

17 comments

  1. [6]
    eve
    Link
    This is my turf. I've been on deviantart since about '07 and tumblr since '11 give or take; admittedly I've basically left tumblr due to the NSFW content ban. It's really kind of disappointing...

    This is my turf. I've been on deviantart since about '07 and tumblr since '11 give or take; admittedly I've basically left tumblr due to the NSFW content ban. It's really kind of disappointing seeing so many artists migrate to social media and the like. None of them were made to keep up with that kind of content.

    I still use deviantart because it's a great way to keep track of and watch artists. There's no IMHO dumb ass algorithms that show me popular posts or posts that have been up for a week. I miss out on a lot of content because I might not engage in a specific way with certain artists and I get shown less of their stuff. All I've ever wanted was a fucking feed that was chronologically based. That way when an artist who doesn't post as often posts, I see them! Or when a post is time sensitive for whatever reason chances are I will see it! On time! Surprisingly enough, Twitter allows you to choose if you want to see the hot posts or by newest and for that I'm kind of thankful as a lot of artists have also migrated over there.

    I've had so many frustrated feelings being part of the artistic community. My experience as a very mediocre, small time artist is very different than those of the bigger fish the article mentions. If you've hardly ever garnered any attention or interest, these sites arent so different over the years. For sure deviantart has way less activity in terms of artists posting their art and journals and whatever else, but to some degree I don't feel that same loss of community. It's there for sure but not as harsh. And in some ways it honestly feels like it may come back.

    I don't post on the forums on deviantart, so all of my interactions are strictly through commenting on art, polls, journals and interacting through commissions. It's pretty noticeable now when there's one person commenting on all of the art you submit (that would be me). I kind of like it to a degree.

    Overall, I think, being an artist online was already hard but social media made it harder. Some people really have it down and understand how best to use whatever site they use, but for someone like me, it's kind of cruel. I'm not expecting to be famous, I'm not that good of an artist. It would be nice to have some attention on my art and maybe make some pocket money off of commissions, but ultimately, even if I somehow ever got really good, I don't think my situation would ever really change. And that's what's missing, the chance to see the big and the small and see what cool and interesting things people are creating.

    14 votes
    1. [2]
      Birb
      Link Parent
      I feel the same way about DeviantArt. My activity on it has been intermittent since I made my first account in 2010, but no other site has been able to provide quite the same service as...

      I feel the same way about DeviantArt. My activity on it has been intermittent since I made my first account in 2010, but no other site has been able to provide quite the same service as DeviantArt. The site shows me what I want to see: art from the people I follow. On top of that, anything that's posted gets to sit in my notifications until I choose to look at it, so nothing gets missed if I don't happen to be online when something is posted. No other website seems to offer that option. Although the site is imperfect, it's the only one that quite fills that niche.

      The website Pillowfort has caught my attention, and I'm curious to see where it goes-- it seems to mostly be like Tumblr but with subreddit-like communities. If it takes off, it could be a nice alternative for artists to flock to.

      3 votes
      1. eve
        Link Parent
        Yeah, that's the biggest draw to deviantart and where most sites are lacking. I've heard of pillowfort as well!! In my time on the Internet I've seen several art websites crop up and get surges of...

        Yeah, that's the biggest draw to deviantart and where most sites are lacking. I've heard of pillowfort as well!! In my time on the Internet I've seen several art websites crop up and get surges of activity and then slowly dwindle. I hope that pillowfort takes off or at least another alternative site.

        2 votes
    2. [3]
      annadane
      Link Parent
      The fact ANY website sorts posts algorithmically and not just pure chronological is simply a crime and proves the designers have absolutely no clue what they're doing and are very out of touch...

      The fact ANY website sorts posts algorithmically and not just pure chronological is simply a crime and proves the designers have absolutely no clue what they're doing and are very out of touch with the user base, and they're chasing the bottom dollar as opposed to sensible design. It's very sad and there's absolutely no way to ever call them out on it

      3 votes
      1. ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        No no: they know what they're doing. Algorithmic sorting is not a simple thing to design, and it takes a lot of technical insight to do. You don't just smash your forehead against the keyboard and...

        proves the designers have absolutely no clue what they're doing

        No no: they know what they're doing. Algorithmic sorting is not a simple thing to design, and it takes a lot of technical insight to do. You don't just smash your forehead against the keyboard and have an algorithm come out.

        You said it yourself: they're chasing cash, not building a better community. It could be malice, but it's more often than not ignorance. You could argue that the designers are just doing their job, doing what they're told... Personally, I'm not buying it.

        Shady? Yep. Good for the website? Not at all. Good for the stuffy people in charge, who have no grasp on what the site represents? For their pockets, sure – and they get to feel accomplished. Good, though? Not sure.

        there's absolutely no way to ever call them out on it

        There's a few ways – but the effect of a single person is so miniscule, doing anything feels like doing nothing at all; shouting at a wall. The way I see it, it's like voting: one vote doesn't matter, but all votes combined shift balances of power quite effectively.

        Unlike voting, the people in charge of a website that engages in shady dealings aren't obligated to follow the popular opinion, which often means the good sites go down, never really catching on fire, but slowly burning out. It's a damn shame – more so because it breaks apart communities and stable personal connections, which is a rare thing nowadays – and yeah, it's frustrating that there seems to be nothing we, as regular users, can do.

        4 votes
      2. eve
        Link Parent
        I agree that websites a lot of the time are out of touch with the userbase. Instead if being able to hold steady, so many companies want more and more profit. I think partly another issue could be...

        I agree that websites a lot of the time are out of touch with the userbase. Instead if being able to hold steady, so many companies want more and more profit. I think partly another issue could be when companies take venture capitalists money (like discord did) so all they chase is money and any chance to make what they borrowed and then some. It is sad and I remember on several occasions when there were stinks on tumblr about whatever thing they changed, no matter how large it felt, it just seemed like the company weathered the storm and shrugged their shoulders. Unfortunately, it would take A LOT of users from any one site to stand together and make a difference. Part of the problem is that I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't actually care about when posts come into their feed, or at least not enough to be a little more than disgruntled and then move on. It really is a shame.

        2 votes
  2. [2]
    Adam_Black_Arts
    Link
    I've been on so many different sites promoting my artwork I'm not sure I can even remember them all. Started putting artwork online in 1997 (on my own website, of course), and every art or...

    I've been on so many different sites promoting my artwork I'm not sure I can even remember them all. Started putting artwork online in 1997 (on my own website, of course), and every art or artist-friendly site seems to go through the same timeline:

    1. Just getting started and a wonderful place for everyone to enjoy,

    2. Tons of new users and now it's like a firehose of content.

    3. The firehose of content and activity draws the attention of investors or buyers, then

    4. The site gets sold or goes public or whatever and Censorship takes over. My art gets banned/removed and it's time to shop around for a new site.

    One of these days I'm gonna find a site that stops at step 2 and I'll be happy as a clam.

    8 votes
    1. hackergal
      Link Parent
      Although not for art, this seems like the goal Tildes is trying to accomplish. Maybe if it's successful, other like-minded people will do the same for other types of websites like hosting art....

      Although not for art, this seems like the goal Tildes is trying to accomplish. Maybe if it's successful, other like-minded people will do the same for other types of websites like hosting art. That's a nice thought.

      4 votes
  3. [4]
    Shneebs
    Link
    I think you can take the word art out of that sentence and it shows what the internet is becoming. I just find it so.... dull nowadays, it felt a bit like the wild west before, you'd stumble on a...

    As the internet consolidated, it moved toward homogeneity and passivity, and the internet’s once-vibrant art communities became casualties in social media’s rapid, obliterative rise.

    I think you can take the word art out of that sentence and it shows what the internet is becoming. I just find it so.... dull nowadays, it felt a bit like the wild west before, you'd stumble on a site, or a forum and just find some crazy stuff, now it's all there in one place.

    I fight constantly to not start typing old.reddi before I catch myself, it's purely years of habit. When I do eventually go on there I just get angry after a few posts and comments.

    4 votes
    1. [3]
      Deimos
      Link Parent
      A lot of that comes from the fixation on growth, especially for sites that are funded by venture capital. The mindset is basically that if your site/service doesn't appeal to everyone, you're...

      A lot of that comes from the fixation on growth, especially for sites that are funded by venture capital. The mindset is basically that if your site/service doesn't appeal to everyone, you're cutting off potential sources of growth. Instead of trying to build the best site for a specific niche, they're trying to build the biggest one, which generally means it needs to be a bland, unopinionated platform.

      7 votes
      1. zaarn
        Link Parent
        Not only does it have to appeal to everyone, it has to experience growth. Growth at all cost, consequences be damned. And if you have every single human on the planet in your network, you still...

        Not only does it have to appeal to everyone, it has to experience growth. Growth at all cost, consequences be damned. And if you have every single human on the planet in your network, you still have to grow. Doesn't matter if you alienate 1000 loyal users if you can use that to convert 10'000 temporary users each month.

        3 votes
      2. firstname
        Link Parent
        Whenever the content is supposed to be art, and the goal takes a turn towards money, and power, sooner or later it also turns into an unemotional pile of shit, in many cases. We see this happen in...

        Whenever the content is supposed to be art, and the goal takes a turn towards money, and power, sooner or later it also turns into an unemotional pile of shit, in many cases.

        We see this happen in the movie industry, game industry. Any type of art that becomes corrupted by the greedy. True inspiration never thrive under the stress that greed puts on its shoulders.

        1 vote
  4. [5]
    NaraVara
    Link
    They hire consultants and coaches. One of my friends is a semi-famous and published Instagram cartoonist and she hired a coach who walked her through how to promote herself on Instagram, how to...

    Some people really have it down and understand how best to use whatever site they use

    They hire consultants and coaches. One of my friends is a semi-famous and published Instagram cartoonist and she hired a coach who walked her through how to promote herself on Instagram, how to find her audience, and what sort of content would hook people.

    That's not to diminish her own skill at being able to hit the right chord and resonate with people, but the "getting good at it" is a learnable skill the same way being able to hit a forehand in tennis is. At this point, though, I think the feeding frenzy on being an "influencer" has already kicked into high gear so it's probably not as useful as scene to be in.

    I think of an earlier generation of the internet where everyone was hosting stuff on personal blogs. Eventually it was saturated with crap, managing community forums and comment threads became a full-time job because of spammers, and search engine optimization made it all but impossible to reach anybody because content farms took up all the big results. Search engine optimization reaching a level of scientific precision combined with a flood of opportunistic hacks and grifters killed blogging and webcomics as a decent way to have a presence.

    So things moved to social media and viral marketing instead since you could have a lower overhead (don't have to maintain your own site) and people could find your stuff by sharing it with their friends. But the same cycle is repeating itself. Opportunistic hacks are filling peoples' content feeds up with crap and making it less likely that they'll stumble on genuine or interesting stuff. And they're willing to engage in the social media equivalent of SEO to do it since they don't care about artistic integrity or whatever. As those techniques become more widespread and more effective over time through natural evolution it kills the platform's usefulness and the platform owners have no incentive to stop it because, in the short term, all this activity is profitable for them. Same thing happened in the previous age where Google was too slow to stop SEO from ruining or influencing the content. The tech world is just really bad at dealing with reflexivity. FOSTA-SESTA definitely did not help either.

    I think the collapse of Tumblr and DeviantArt are the canaries in the coal-mine for the death of the "virality" paradigm for hosting and distributing creative work. We're going to see the next thing take off as creatives find somewhere else to go that isn't lousy with knockoffs. Perhaps Mastadon, just because the incentive structure of the fediverse is to focus on making the quality of interactions instead of quantity of engagement.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      eve
      Link Parent
      It's true that there are coaches and the like but there are still I between phases and people who don't use them or can't due to monetary reasons. But you're right in that the meaning of reaching...

      It's true that there are coaches and the like but there are still I between phases and people who don't use them or can't due to monetary reasons. But you're right in that the meaning of reaching that "influencer" (gag) stage is virtually worthless.

      It may be likely the "death" of tumblr and deviantart really are the knell for greater things that are going to happen. I think it'll be hard to tell what will happen but something is likely to give in the current rush of social media. Though I will disagree in what will be the next thing in that I don't believe Mastadon has enough steam (at least for now). I've only ever heard of it through tildes and that's it. In terms of the creative crowd moving around, Mastadon is really going to have to sell themselves give that they have difficulties with some of their content. Plus they're not actually as well known within the creative spheres as one who is familiar with it might think.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        moocow1452
        Link Parent
        Mastadon kinda has the Google+ problem of it being Yet Another Social Media Platform™, without having Google Ads as a monetization engine, for better or worse. I don't see it catching on to the...

        Mastadon kinda has the Google+ problem of it being Yet Another Social Media Platform™, without having Google Ads as a monetization engine, for better or worse. I don't see it catching on to the degree of Facebook, Twitter or whatever vowelless abomination is working it's way through a round of funding unless somebody is getting rich or richer off of it, and the federated nature works against the discoverablity factor, so even independent creators are kind of in the lurch.

        2 votes
        1. alyaza
          Link Parent
          i feel like you're just describing draws for it though, honestly? it's never going to be twitter or facebook because it's kinda... not supposed to be, really. like, they're similar and have...

          i feel like you're just describing draws for it though, honestly? it's never going to be twitter or facebook because it's kinda... not supposed to be, really. like, they're similar and have similar goals in mind, obviously (mastodon is basically a clone of twitter) but mastodon just doesn't cultivate communities or community relations (and the more individual relations that come with that) in the same way those platforms do and that alone will probably keep it rolling since it allows distinct communities to exist along side individuals doing their own thing. it makes the bar of entry higher for certain, but in the long run i think that'll also end up a healthier model for social-media-based communities than twitter or facebook or the rest of the lot. being able to actually easily "fit in" with a group of people--but also to get out of dodge if shit hits the fan and find another group or establish another group quite easily--is pretty liberating compared to trying to fit in and gather a following of some kind on a giant website like twitter where everything is mildly homogeneous just so that you're not just screaming into a void.

          1 vote
      2. NaraVara
        Link Parent
        To be fair, neither was the internet once.

        Plus they're not actually as well known within the creative spheres as one who is familiar with it might think.

        To be fair, neither was the internet once.

        1 vote