Tumblr’s Xkit Guy, social media modding, and code as resistance


  • Mehitabel Glenhaber University of Southern California




Fan labor, Fan resistance, Fan works, Platforms, Playbor, Video game modding, Xkit browser extension


The platformalization of the internet means that fan communities must make homes in spaces that they do not own. Tumblr has lately been the chosen home for many online fandoms because of its affordances for anonymity and lack of censorship. However, the profit motives of Tumblr's owners, especially after Yahoo purchased the site in 2013, are frequently at odds with the affordances that nourish fan communities. Fans on Tumblr are aware of their precarious position, where a few keystrokes by a developer could endanger an affordance that their communities depend on. An examination of the relationship between Tumblr users and Tumblr staff provides a case study of how fan communities push back against platform owners. The Tumblr Xkit Extension, a fan-made browser extension maintained by the volunteer labor of the Xkit Guy, is used to illustrate that the Tumblr community acts as a fandom of a social media site. This lets us understand the Xkit Browser extension as a resistant fan work written in the medium of code. Like video game modding, social media modding is a transformative work that permits fans to oppose the platform's code as law—but one that could also constitute a form of exploited labor.