~ Posted by James Manning, November 8th 2012
If you're used to the endless columns of scrolling text on Twitter, or Facebook's blocky blue-and-white timelines, then Tumblr can come as a shock. Like Twitter it's a "micro-blogging" social network, but while Tweeters are restricted to 140 characters of plain text, users of Tumblr—whose founder, David Karp, we interviewed in 2010—can post full-sized pictures, videos, sounds and animations, as well as text posts of any length. Add to that flexibility a young demographic (around half of Tumblr users are under 25) and you get a platform for rampant, visual creativity.
Users follow other Tumblr blogs and re-post their favourite material on their own pages, plucking stuff out of the ether to create something like a visual stream of consciousness. Some people use the site as a platform for a regular text blog, but a Tumblr page works best as a rolling digital scrapbook, piling up and jumbling together images from high and popular culture.
It's that diversity which is the real joy of Tumblr. The site is home, for example, to Cave to Canvas, a stylish art history blog posting everything from Botticelli to Basquiat; but also to I ♥ Cat GIFs, a never-ending stream of adorable but migraine-inducing cat animations. There are visual pages for everything from neuroscience to nostalgia, from football to food. Tumblr can be moving (Live!), political (Mitt Romney Does William Shakespeare), beautiful (Spio), literary (Bookshelf Porn) and bizarre (Selleck Waterfall Sandwich). It can make you hungry (Scanwiches) and it can make you sad (Garfield Minus Garfield). You get the picture.
Plenty of magazines and newspapers, including The Economist, Vanity Fair and Time, already have Tumblr pages where they gather together the best of their photography, illustration and design. Now Intelligent Life is joining them. Our page, intlifemag.tumblr.com, is a regularly-updated collage of the best pictures from the magazine, plus the occasional quotation. It mixes up the magazine's visuals, so that Tom Stoppard turns away from a colander full of kidney beans, and Keira Knightley smokes and pouts while the Hoover Dam looms behind her.
Tumblr users can follow us by visiting www.tumblr.com/follow/intlifemag. If you don't have an account, then check the page for regular updates or follow our Tumblr RSS feed at www.intlifemag.tumblr.com/rss.
Update: Thanks to mely mn (comment below) for the feedback. There are now "like" and "reblog" buttons on each picture on the main page: hover to see them.