Limelight on the Butterfly’s Wing:
Seapunk and Other Structural Colorations

an essay                       with commentary
by Till Mycha




As the blogging platform and social networking tool Tumblr began to grow in popularity several years ago, the website’s “copyright problem” bore constant mention amidst speculation over Tumblr’s viability for advertisers.1 The platform now inches towards profitability, but this problem persists and is indicative of how in its very structure Tumblr encourages curating over creating, fostering a culture in which attention is actively deflected from authorship and origin in favor of expert collecting. Tumblr is a sort of serendipitous garden of contemporary aesthetics, where the wind blows seeds from neighboring bushes as various gardeners come by to cultivate the plot, helping styles to grow in surprising proximity—the fruit of accident, impulse, and intent. But what is the nature of these aesthetic outgrowths?
“Seapunk,” is a so-called “microtrend” that developed among web artists and image sharers on Tumblr, and now thrives in the blue-tinted hair of many an urban 20-year-old: an expression of its eventual absorption into mainstream fashion trends. The trajectory of this microtrend, from a dispersed interest in ocean themes, to a Twitter in-joke, to a fully formed popular aesthetic complete with accessories, music, and celebrity representatives, exemplifies how the specific culture of image sharing created by Tumblr holds powerful potential for the generation of styles.
The visual quality of ‘coldness,’ associated with blue in RGB colors2, has favored an interesting cultural twist and blue has been associated with all things cold or considered cold, including the digital. It is known that if you search images online for words such as ‘internet’ or ‘digital,’ a selection of pictures with blue backgrounds, shiny blue connections alternating series of numbers will appear. The digital and the internet are the bluest eminences. A trite interpretation of this metaphor is that, when bodies dematerialize and human embodied presence is gone, we are left with cold, inhuman relations that pass through alpha-numeric chains and are neither moist nor breathing. Within this frame, seapunk may be a cold punk. It is un-trained, pack-driven and proudly entitled, but still cold. It is a band dispersed across the internet that never rehearsed but happened to play together. Seapunk’s migration to the world away from the keyboard allowed the blue-green color to stain even hair, but still, apparently no meaningful connection ever happened. What we don’t know is what else that blue-green hue could have been. Perhaps it was for camouflaging in the internet seas, or coordinating a series of less-than-intentional secret signals that, for a short blissful period, nobody else could see.
In Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet, Olga Goriunova uses assemblage theory and organizational aesthetics to discuss the nature of art production via what she calls “art platforms,” taking the platforms themselves as her object of research3 because, as she writes, “…it is increasingly difficult to withdraw a cultural phenomenon from its networks of subjectification; and it is through and with the relations that are reciprocally produced in such a domain that the grey zones of art and culture emerge, seethe, and actualize particular artistic phenomena…”4 Taking Tumblr as a site of this seething actualization, we can see how seapunk lives on the site and, gleaning what we can of its history, follow the threads of its emergence, to understand the cultivating forces that produce such contemporary popular aesthetics.


Precognitive aesthetics
As a location of fast, impulsive image collecting, Tumblr becomes a rich environment for the creation and refinement of distinct sets of aesthetic sensibilities. Images are shared based on a series of immediate emotional, affective responses, rather than cognitive, information-based responses, encouraging a unique relationship with images and their content. The contingent of users who produced seapunk find images primarily through the Tumblr community as part of a personal aesthetic-building project. Sharing and the potential for an image to be shared are essential to the posting practices of these users. The particular form of blog Tumblr templates support is a formalization of a blogging trend that emerged just before the service was launched: the “tumblelog,” distinguished by an emphasis on very short text, quotes and images.5 The format favors feeling over discourse. It is an often-repeated part of Tumblr’s origin story that what got Tumblr founder David Karp first hooked on the tumblelog was a sense of intimidation in the face of an empty blogging text box. He wanted a blog that, in its posting format, didn’t ask him to write.6 As a result, Tumblr allows users to choose between formatting for text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio, and video, forgoing the open-ended blogging text box and implicit imperative to write in favor of posting streamlined for discrete digital objects found on the web or created by the user. Users post images simply by dragging and dropping from their own computers or by typing in a URL.
The image posting mechanism offers an option for adding a source site, but the fastest and simplest way to post forgoes the inclusion of this information, and captioning and tagging tend to be limited. Once posted on Tumblr, an image begins a new life disconnected from its origin, being passed from user to user, context to context.7 Many Tumblr users rarely post their own content at all, instead choosing to reblog material from other Tumblr users they follow. This behavior activates Tumblr as a community, and further elucidates the origins of the site’s “copyright problem.” The way users encounter and share material is set up in such a way as to obfuscate origin. Tumblr users see most Tumblr posts not on the blog pages of other users, but through their own dashboards, integrated into a flow-based format. Posts accumulate “notes” in the form of “likes” and reblogs, and it is not always apparent who the original poster of an image might have been. On a post with hundreds or thousands of notes, it is necessary to click back many times to find the original poster at the bottom of the list. It is not even customary for posters to include whether or not they created an image themselves, unless the image is posted on a blog explicitly devoted to an individual’s artwork. Even in this case, any captions on an originally posted image are easily removed when the image is reblogged. Tumblr is organized around a principle of maximum simplicity and ease of use, minimizing decision-making and, in a sense, thinking. The quickest and easiest way to post and share images on Tumblr entails actively ignoring or omitting information related to author or origin.
When all contextual information falls away, the images most likely to circulate are those that incite automatic reactions regardless of context. In analyzing the nature of viral spread in his book Virality, Tony Sampson discusses the “precognitive” nature of contagion that leads to virality.8 Sampson writes, “…contagion theory needs to grasp what spreads as entering through the skin into the neural unconscious that relates the porous self to the other (and all other things)… What spreads passes right through [biological or social contagion] into the atmosphere of affect.”9 This affective atmosphere is a space where feelings and inclinations guide the way, and thoughts come later or not at all.
Not long ago, one10 of the many e-flux messages I welcome every day in my in-box reminded me of Blue, a film by Derek Jarman, produced in 1993. It was his last feature film, shot as he was losing his sight due to an irreparable retinal damage, one of the episodes of physical undoing that he experienced as he was dying of AIDS. I don’t remember the first time I heard about the movie, but the information of its existence was featured already somewhere in my memory. Almost everything that refers to the cultural production from the 1990s brings me back to the booming AIDS epidemics and the media campaigns of those years. As I had never seen the film, I went online and found it segmented in seven parts. The movie is composed of one single shot with a saturated blue backdrop and a narrating voice that changes during the course of the film. The narrative constantly refers to the color blue and explains what is happening to the artist, slowly getting acquainted with the idea of becoming blind and then dying. As a color at the further peripheries of our optical perception range, the blue referenced in the film reminds us of this sense of light fading away. Something that we still record and process as visual information, but that exists at the very margins of the human reception system, on its way off to ultra-violet. I was lucky enough to find the movie for free and I decided to watch it right before falling asleep. The screen of my laptop is old and, as I was seeing the film, the pixels of the blue background looked as if they were moving, organizing and disorganizing into abstract shapes and figurations. I would not be able to tell whether that was intended, or whether it was me, slowly falling asleep and losing consciousness, or just an irreparable fault in my computer’s GPU. At some point, in the third segment of the film posted on YouTube, the artist utters the expression: ‘delphinian day’.


Seapunk bubbles to the surface
On Tumblr, search results are only organized chronologically, going back some hundred posts; further complicating matters, the hashtagging culture is less than robust. What can be accessed via search will never be as rich in material as what Tumblr users encounter on their dashboards by way of the other users they follow, and the posting format, as described above, reinforces the urge to either like or reblog in the moment. Images exist as elements of pages and streams, not as bits of information that can be tracked and categorized.
For these reasons, it is impossible to track exactly how seapunk came into existence. But for seapunk to distinguish itself as a phenomenon in the churning aesthetic soup of Tumblr, someone had to give it a name. Early one morning in June 2011, Brooklyn-based music producer and web celebrity @LilInternet tweeted: “SEAPUNK LEATHER JACKET WITH BARNACLES WHERE THE STUDS SHOULD BE.”11 According to a history written by an early participant in seapunk @LilGovernment, after this tweet, @LilGovernment, @LilInternet, and several other Twitter users began passing around joking tweets about things that could be considered seapunk. @LilGovernment responded to @LilInternet’s tweet with “LET’S MAKE SANDCRASSLES #SEAPUNK,”12 marking the first time seapunk was used as a hashtag, according to @LilGovernment’s account. This conversation struck a chord, in particular, with Twitter users @Ultrademon and @Zombelle, who were among those who re-tweeted @LilInternet’s initial seapunk tweet,13 and are now seapunk’s fashion icons and representatives to broader popular culture. They are also some of the few people who produce categorically seapunk music.15
But this does not mean that @Ultrademon and @Zombelle simply latched on to @LilInternet’s tweet. While this initial exchange identified seapunk as a punning mash-up of punk style and ocean themes, it is not the origin of seapunk. Seapunk and trends like it are cultivated specifically on Tumblr. A look at the archive page of @Ultrademon’s Tumblr[15] indicates that he was sharing images daily during the time leading up to @LilInternet’s seapunk tweet, and had been posting simple, computer generated images of the sea along with semi-pornographic 3-D anime figures and Nintendo graphics since joining the site in March 2011. Ultrademon was already building something that looked like seapunk before @LilInternet gave the aesthetic a name. And most of Ultrademon’s posts were reblogs—he followed other users also sharing ocean images. Looking at the images he shared, it is possible to see the aesthetic develop.
We learn in school that blue is the most reflective of colors. Some of us learn a little bit later that this is mostly due to the Lord Rayleigh’s scattering effect. Longer wavelengths correspond to lower quantities of energy and ‘warmer’ colors. As white light crosses the atmosphere, most of the longer wavelengths pass through: orange, red, yellow make it to the surface of the planet. Wavelengths corresponding to ‘colder’ colors interact with the molecules of atmospheric gasses, first they are absorbed and then are literally scattered again in all possible trajectories. Whichever direction we look at, we see blue.
A few months after joining Tumblr, around the time of @LilInternet’s tweet, new elements began to appear as Ultrademon posted ocean scenes combined with occult symbols, yin-yangs and peace signs, demonstrating an elaboration possibly connected to the Twitter conversation. A few months after @LilInternet’s tweet, Ultrademon began to post images of people sporting green hair, ocean-print clothing, and reflective sunglasses, shifting the focus from graphics and GIFs to wearable fashion items and music—the identifying objects of a subculture. Seapunk now has an official mouthpiece in the form of the “Sea Punk Gang” Tumblr, where seapunk music is promoted, and seapunk themed sweatshirts, among other things, can be purchased. Now that seapunk has been thoroughly commodified and monetized, Ultrademon primarily posts images of and references to himself on Tumblr. It seems, in fact, that seapunk only experienced a brief period of elaboration after being named, before it became an established and defined collection of cultural material. These objects came after digital visual experimentation coalesced into an aesthetic. Wearable, real-world style followed after digital images. The “culture” of seapunk is located in the process of its creation—in the image sharing culture on Tumblr.
It is somewhat ironic that blue pigments are less prevalent in nature, when it comes to both vertebrates and invertebrates. Animals tend to be particularly receptive to hues of blue, violet and even ultra-violet, but pigments that reflect these shorter wavelengths are unusual. This is quite inconvenient, since a blue coloration could allow targets to camouflage with the environment and avoid predators; or to produce startling contrast effects with warmer colors in feathers, wings, mantles and skins and so maximize conspicuousness or magnify features to show off with potential mates. One way that many species have to supply blue and violet coloration is with structural colors. Not the pigment, but the physical structure on the animal’s surface manages to produce the missing hue: blue. For the way structural coloration works, constructively interfering light waves often make up for shorter wavelengths.
Not only did seapunk precede @LilInternet’s tweet, if in unnamed form, but the aesthetic Ultrademon built on, involving CGI graphics and play with space and new age and occult symbolism, is not at all exclusive to seapunk and has been developing over the past five years or more in the videos of electronic musicians like Teengirl Fantasy,16 web artists like Jerome LOL17 and many others, as well as on Tumblr. Seapunk elaborates on this imagery with specific elements: water, mermaids, dolphins, etc. Seapunk can be understood not as the offshoot of a particularly fateful tweet, but as an emergent phenomenon, born out of a robust image sharing practice.
In being named, Seapunk’s aesthetic became ripe for mainstream appropriation. In March 2012, just nine months after @LilInternet’s tweet, the New York Times style section ran a trend piece on seapunk.18 Then, later that year, within 24 hours of each other Rihanna performed on SNL in front of a green screen flashing seapunk imagery19 and Azealia Banks released a music video called “Atlantis” in which she dressed as a mermaid and danced in front of swirling images of water and sand castles,20 making seapunk aesthetics officially mainstream.
In their article Iridescence, a Functional Prospective21, Stephanie Doucet and Melissa Meadows affirm that structurally produced short wavelength colors hold some special features. They are tunable, highly directional and change with the environment. They can emit cryptic one-off signals, help coordinate when moving in groups or establish secret channels of communication. Therefore we may say that same-species animals entertain their secret short wavelength conversations, sending blue pieces of information back and forth across the space of a forest, keeping under the radar of predators’ perception.
But what, exactly, were these artists ushering into the limelight? It is hard to know what to call seapunk. It is not simply a fashion trend, and in itself it does not quite constitute an actual culture—sub- or otherwise. But as a specific set of visual tropes mixed and remixed, it could perhaps be described as a meme. In a recent paper, “The Force of Digital Aesthetics,” Olga Goriunova looks at memes as cultural objects emerging from assemblages of interacting forces, an expansion on her work in Art Platforms. Memes, by definition, cannot be created by an individual—this would make them not “genuine,” according to Goriunova’s criteria.22 They must, rather, emerge through a somewhat serendipitous confluence of operations and events, making them a site where the individuation and consummation of ideas, norms, snippets of code, codes of practice, cultural events and political acts, creative forms, sets of behaviors, gestures and performances, conceptual figures, youth practices, and technical platforms … unfolds online.”23 Memes expand on clichés and make political statements through repetition and variation. Seapunk as a meme is basically an absurdist joke and specification of already existing aesthetics. Nonetheless, it provides an axis through which it is possible to observe how the forces harnessed by particular platforms encourage errant visual material to coalesce into something definable. Seapunk becomes identifiable through a specific set of cultural practices that emerged as a product of the technical apparatus that facilitated them.
If we look at Tumblr as an “art platform,” which Goriunova defines as “… a website or an assemblage of human-technical objects and relations reflexive of their own processual composition, which acts as a catalyst in the development of an exceptionally vivid cultural or artistic current,”24 then seapunk the meme can be thought of as a phenomenon generated through the natural operation of this platform. Goriunova writes, “The aesthetic phenomena that emerge through art platforms are of a character ‘natural’ to technical networks.”25 Seapunk is paradigmatic of the things that Tumblr produces. Looking at the platform-driven, near-automation of style production on Tumblr, seapunk appears as something natural to the network,26 meaning without Tumblr, there could be no seapunk. The process goes as follows: images of oceans begin to proliferate, accruing emotional, pre-cognitive attraction within a pattern of viral spread. Then, as one Tumblr user begins to collect ocean images, another user associates this with a particular era of kitschy computer graphics, and attaches spheres and yin-yangs to these images, as other users continue to collect and share these same images. This axis of image creation is expanded, spread, and eventually named. Through an intuitive system of seeing, feeling, and liking, styles bubble up and proliferate.
The pigments of the Blue Morpho butterfly are not blue. A groovy structure of cuticular chitin and air on the surface of the wings generates phenomena of interference and diffraction. When the light hits the scales it is not directly reflected as it would be when interacting with a pigment. The waves emerging off of the surface interfere with each other and generate changing wavelengths. The surface of the Morpho’s wings produces iridescent colors that are predominantly blue.


Who are the seapunks?
Tumblr founder David Karp told the New York Times that Tumblr users fall into three categories: creators, curators, and consumers.27 One cannot find the individual users who created the first seapunk images, a testament to the difficulty of tracing origin on Tumblr. But using a web-based tool to calculate individual patterns of use,29 I have produced statistics for three Tumblr users who have recently posted seapunk-related images: “Queenoftheseapunks,”[29] “Apsychologykid,”30 and “Aurea-crystallize.”31 None of these users explicitly post their own artwork. They are all primarily curators or consumers.
Queenoftheseapunks has been a Tumblr user since July 2011. While her initial posts included personal photographs of herself and her friends, within several months of joining Tumblr, the personal photographs disappeared, and since then she has been overwhelmingly reblogging material—including fashion items, joke images about sexuality, and images referring to drug use. This behavior makes Queenoftheseapunks paradigmatic of the “consumer” category of Tumblr user. She posts 400-600 times a month, almost all of her posts are images, and of 62,977 total posts, 97% are reblogs from other Tumblr users.
Apsychologykid also posts almost exclusively images, a combination of computer graphics, GIFs, and fashion photographs, with a special interest in Hindu and Christian iconography. But Apsychologykid could be categorized as a “curator.” Of his 21,608 total posts since joining Tumblr in January 2011, 85% are photos originally posted by himself. This does not mean that he created these images, but that he either created them or found them on the wider web, rather than through the dashboard of his Tumblr account.
What drew my interest towards the Morpho was not so much its color, which is alluring for as much as it is unearthly, but the nano-structures responsible for it, located on the wings: a prodigious number of tiny slits and scales. The first time I came across a picture of these grooves, I thought of the butterfly’s wings as surfaces struggling to pack in too much material that could not possibly be flattened into one smooth layer. So it cracked into minute compositions similar to lines of microscopic Christmas trees or coral barriers, with ridges, cross-ribs and lamellae that entangle light and, BOOM, reflect blue.
However, whatever the statistics say, it is impossible to know how a user actually came across any given image. “Aurea-crystallize,” who has only been using Tumblr for one month, appears to be posting primarily original content (either her own, or found on the web outside of Tumblr). 50 of her 58 posts were identified as originally posted images. But looking more closely, one image posted by Aurea-crystallize was reblogged by Queenoftheseapunks from a different original poster several months before Aurea-crystallize joined Tumblr. Aurea-crystallize seems to disguise her consumption as curation, downloading images from the Tumblr dashboard to her own desktop, and posting so as to appear to have found the images herself.32 This behavior indicates that a perception of status accrues around the original poster of an image—a user more like Apsychologykid than Queenoftheseapunks—who infuses new material into the site. But emphasis falls not on where the image comes from, but rather whether or not the Tumblr user finds it themselves. Status is acquired by identifying as the first person to notice that an image is noticeable, therefore appearing to possess a unique aesthetic sensibility. As images are concentrated and circulated in Tumblr, the most venerated users are those adding to the Tumblr image collection. Notably, by not displaying a user’s number of followers, Tumblr makes it difficult for users to accrue status in any other obvious or quantifiable way.
All three users share a similar layout, which makes a large number of images visible in a single view, more a collage than a traditional blog. Both Apsychologykid and Queenoftheseapunks demonstrate a wide range of visual interests, with recurring themes that come together to create a distinctive personal aesthetic. Queenoftheseapunks has by far the most posts, although she joined Tumblr seven months after Apsychologykid. This is likely because she primarily shares material that exists within Tumblr already. While Queenoftheseapunks posts up to 20 times a day, Apsychologykid averages only two or three posts per day. Queenoftheseapunks is an expert consumer, and Apsychologykid is an expert curator—and curation is more time consuming than consumption. The consumers have time to be far more prolific.
Siegfried Zielinski begins his 2006 book Deep Time of the Media – Towards an Archeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means34 by writing about the jellyfish Aequoreoa Victoria: a bioluminescent creature inhabiting the deeper sections of the Mediterranean Bay of Naples and naturally emitting light. Structurally-produced colors as well as bioluminescence are objects of great interest among biologists. Scholars consider these phenomena mainly within evolutionary perspectives, aiming to answer questions over the reason why certain traits are selected. The sub-molecule coelenterazine is responsible for the Victoria’s bioluminescence, as Zielinski explains, and dispatches two functions. First of all, it protects the jellyfish’s DNA from free radicals. At the same time, even when the animal’s ecology is free from threats, the coelenterazine waste a large amount of energy just to put on a majestic light show under the sea.’
Of these users, only Apsychologykid was using Tumblr at the time seapunk first emerged, and seapunk images only begin to appear in his feed around August 2012. It seems that those who are currently sharing seapunk material are not those same people that were spreading seapunk in its early days. The style has moved into more dispersed territory, becoming one thread in a broad web of popular and less popular aesthetic interests. Goriunova writes of art-surfing clubs, groups of avid web-surfers who, like Apsychologykid and Queenoftheseapunks, collect material from across the web as a hobby. Goriunova argues that “…what they produce through their selections tells one more about digital culture and art in their processual self-assembly than any dismissive top-down or overly optimistic exploration possibly can,”[34] because art-surfers are wading through “the muddiness of mass-scale autocreativity.”35 They are in the middle of things. And these Tumblr users are also very much in the middle of the mess of visual culture on the web.
They live in a space where all visual content can be mashed together, arranged and rearranged in ever-shifting webs of images, from which constantly reorganized combinations emerge. Apsychologykid posts religious images alongside pictures of dolphins, celebrities and digital palm trees. Re-contextualized in this abstracted visual stew, the images lose their iconic status. They look good with the other images Apsychologykid posts. Bright, kitschy and strange, they are chosen for color and design, not content. Aurea-crystallize has posted an image of a yin-yang with upside down crosses instead of dots, but in the pale pinkish flow of Aurea-crystallize’s Tumblr it does not read as any kind of statement about East Asian religion and Christianity, or even necessarily imply an interest in these things beyond their abstracted symbols. This stripping of context occurs in concert with image-sharing practices oriented towards affective, emotion-based, immediate reactions that elide interest in authorship or originary purpose. Seapunk became something identifiable by the infusion of distinguishing discourse into intuitive visual streams of watery GIFs. The persistent de-contextualization that occurs naturally on Tumblr is implicit in the creation of a meme that is elaborated enough to begin to look like a subculture. This is seapunk, composed of aesthetic markers signifying nothing beyond their flashy presence, a little patch of bright blue alien petunias popping up from the fertile digital earth and flowering for just a few sunny moments.






@LilInternet, and @LilGovernment (April, 2012, Accessed April 24, 2103) “Seapunk Washes Up,” NOISEY (blog),
“✙ Áurea entre ismos(●*∩_∩*●)” (Accessed April 27, 2013) Tumblr,
“AS THE EARTH TURNS” (Accessed April 27, 2013) Tumblr,
Banks, Azealia (November 11, 2012, Accessed April 27, 2013) “ATLANTIS (**OFFICIAL VIDEO**),” YouTube,
Teengirl Fantasy (October 20, 2010. Accessed April 27, 2013) “Dancing In Slow Motion f/ Shannon Funchess OFFICIAL VIDEO,” YouTube,
“darkdreamo” (Accessed April 27, 2013) Tumblr,
Detrick, Ben (March 2, 2012. Accessed April 27, 2013) “Little Mermaid Goes Punk,” Times (New York),
Doucet, S. and Melissa Meadows (2009, Accessed 20 November 2014) “Iridescence: a functional prospective,” in Interface, Online, 1 (Suppl 2), 115-132,
Edwards, Jim (September 12, 2011, Accessed April 28, 2013) “Why Tumblr Must Kill What Made It Big Porn and Copyright Violations,” CBS News,
Goriunova, Olga (2012) Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet, New York: Routledge
Goriunova, Olga (accessed via, 27, April, 2013) “The Force of Digital Aesthetics: On Memes, Hacking, and Individuation,” Zeitschrift fur Medienwissenschaft, 8, Editors: Erich Horl, Mark Hansen, “Medienasthetik”, #1 (translated into German); the English version of the text is submitted to the Nordic Journal of Aesthetics]
Hafertepen, Dylan (Accessed April 27, 2013) “simple tumblr stats,” Studio moh — Portfolio of Dylan Hafertepen,
Kottke, Jason (October 19, 2005. Accessed April 27, 2013) “Tumblelogs” (blog),
Jerome LOL (n.d. Accessed April 27, 2013) “LOLBoys – 123,” Jerome LOL,
Rihanna (November 15, 2012. Accessed April 27, 2013) “Diamonds (Live on SNL),” YouTube,
Sampson, Tony D (2012) Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
“Sorry ‘Bout It” (Accessed April 27, 2013), Tumblr,
Troemel, Brad (2013, Accessed April 27, 2013) “The Accidental Audience,” The New Inquiry
Walker, Rob (July 12, 2012. Accessed April 27, 2013) “Can Tumblr’s David Karp Embrace Ads Without Selling Out?” Times (New York),
 Zielinski, S. (2008), Deep Time of the Media, Toward an Archeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means. Cambridge: MIT




1 Jim Edwards, (September 12, 2011, Accessed April 28, 2013) “Why Tumblr Must Kill What Made It Big: Porn and Copyright Violations,” CBS News,
2 The actual temperature of the colour is a completely different matter instead. For instance, blue colored flames are notoriously the hottest, second just to white flames.
3 Olga Goriunova (2012) 2
4 Goriunova (2012) 69
5 Jason Kottke (October 19, 2005, Accessed April 27, 2013) “Tumblelogs,”,
6 Rob Walker (July 12, 2012, Accessed April 27, 2013) “Can Tumblr’s David Karp Embrace Ads Without Selling Out?” New York Times,
7 In an article for The New Inquiry, “The Accidental Audience,” Brad Troemel (March 14, 2013, accessed April 27, 2013) writes about the consequences of this behavior for art on Tumblr:
8 Tony Sampson (2012) 157
9 Sampson (2012) 157
10 E-flux, E-flux,, 2014, RISD Museum presents Projection, E-mail Message to S Mollicchi. Sent November 2 2014, Accessed 02 November 14
11 @LilInternet, and @LilGovernment (April, 2012, Accessed April 24, 2013) “Seapunk Washes Up,” NOISEY (blog)
12 “Seapunk Washes Up”
13 “Seapunk Washes Up”
14 Seapunk music, paralleling the seapunk visual aesthetic, is marked primarily by a mashing-up of ocean sounds, 1990s hip-hop, and electronic dance music. Seapunk music comes primarily from the few minor celebrities (like Ultrademon) explicitly associated with seapunk. While the music is certainly relevant to understanding what seapunk is, in this essay my concern is with the development of the visual aspects of the style. This is where Tumblr plays the most prominent role.
15 “darkdreamo” (accessed April 24, 2013)
16 See the work of Teengirl Fantasy (October 20, 2010, Accessed April 27, 2013) “Dancing In Slow Motion f/ Shannon Funchess,”
17 See the work of Jerome LOL (Accessed April 27, 2013)
18 Ben Detrick (March 2, 2012, Accessed April 27, 2013) “Little Mermaid Goes Punk,” New York Times,
19 Rihanna (November 15, 2012, Accessed April 27, 2013) “Diamonds”
20 Azealia Banks (November 11, 2012, Accessed April 27, 2013) “Atlantis,”
21 Stephanie Doucet and Melissa Meadows (2009, Accessed 20th November 2014) “Iridescence: a functional prospective” Interface, Online, 1 Suppl 2, 115-132,
22 Olga Goriunova (Accessed via, 27, April, 2013) “The Force of Digital Aesthetics: On Memes, Hacking, and Individuation” submitted to the Nordic Journal of Aesthetics,
23 Goriunova “The Force of Digital Aesthetics: On Memes, Hacking, and Individuation” 7
24 Goriunova (2012) 2
25 Goriunova (2012) 2
26 Goriunova (2012) 2
27 “Can Tumblr’s David Karp Embrace Ads Without Selling Out?”
28 Dylan Hafertepen (Accessed April 27, 2013) “Simple Tumblr Stats,”
29 “Sorry ‘Bout It” (accessed April 27, 2013)
30 “AS THE EARTH TURNS” (accessed April 27, 2013)
31 “✙ Áurea entre ismos(●*∩_∩*●),” (accessed April 27, 2013)
32 This behavior is not uncommon, and is also discussed in Troeml (2013).
33 Siegfried Zielinski (2008)
34 Goriunova (2012) 87-8
35 Goriunova (2012) 87-8


Ben Bolet, Morpho Helena Scales. Image source:, accessed December 8, 2014.