While role-play does offer therapeutic benefits, the recent actions of Tumblr users show fans of certain narratives moving beyond the need to improve one’s own relation to the world. Rather than the world serving the individual, the individual in these cases serves the world by allowing her– or himself to be swept up in play. A major part of this transindividual work is the acknowledgment that world building and narrative is an unpredictable activity: role players do not control their muses or seek to do so. In celebrating this loss of control, the player also opens him– or herself up to other players’ needs and strengths while navigating a scene.
Howard, K. Shannon. 2017. “Surrendering Authorial Agency and Practicing Transindividualism in Tumblr’s Role-play Communities.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 25.
In this paper, Shannon Howard examines role-play on Tumblr as a hybrid between fan fiction and gaming. She compares it to other kinds of role-play, for instance tabletop and live action gaming, video games, or even online role-play on platforms like LiveJournal. She argues that Tumblr role-play is different, in part because of the technical features Tumblr offers as a platform. On LiveJournal, for instance, a user is in complete control of the interactions that happen on their account: they make posts, they pick or design the journal style, they may choose to engage with comments, but equally they may also delete comments. Tumblr’s features allow for a more porous relationship between accounts, players, and characters as interactions may be reblogged and added to, and no single individual is in complete control of the process. Howeard uses the framework of transindividualism to argue that Tumblr role-play is significantly different to other kinds of role-play as it is much less focused on the individual and more focused on the collaborative creatiion of a narrative.