Twitterature: When Moby Dick Became The Fail Whale

The microblogging service Twitter has, from it launch in 2006, been a case study in the ability of certain “products” in our new global digital economy have to fascinate with a potent and broad (or wide) allure (and one that cannot be reduced to mere novelty.) In the aftermath of two very different but equally historic elections — one in the United States, the other in Iran — Twitter has been studied and celebrated as a force for social transformation. But the literati, historians in their own right, have been paying attention to what Twitter might mean to their own concerns and pursuits, and in increasing numbers. But Twitter does not resemble conventional publishing in any way other than: 1) it is text-based; 2) it allows for the dissemination of said text to a (presumably) mass audience (latest estimates: 75 million users); 3) all tweets (even those generated by spambots and virtual porn-stars) now have a permanent residence in cultural institutions, thanks to the Library of Congress’s recently announced “Twitter archive.” From another perspective, however, Twitter is a reminder of how strangely mediated and encrusted with ritual and industrial vestige conventional publishing is. Further, Twitter has very little in common with traditional mass media, the scope and frequency of its use aside… but would one really compare the ball-point pen to television? Twitter is a communications technology that is being used by certain media companies and players, but it has much more in common with the postcard, telegraphy, and telephony than it does the newspaper, the novel, the glossy magazine or the independent film. So, perhaps it is that Twitter shapes an experience of language that for certain writers and readers captures better than any book where literature comes from, as well as to which events, subjects and themes literature should lend its voice.

To gain a better sense of how something so simple as a new way of sending short messages might be transforming literature, on March 6, 2010, Black Clock invited 4 individuals well-known for their creative use of Twitter’s mere 140 characters to participate in an e-roundtable on this phenomenon.

The participants:

Phil Gyford (@philgyford): UK-based web-designer; prime mover behind the re-publication of Samuel Pepys’ Diary of 1667 via Twitter, @samuelpepys

Andy Hunter (@ElectricLit): editor of Electric Literature and sponsor / publisher / prime mover behind the Twitter publication of Rick Moody’s short story “Some Contemporary Characters”

Collin Kelley (@CollinKelley): novelist, poet, blogger and co-editor (with Didi Menendez) of the “Twitter Poets” issue of Ocho (#24)

Joe Milazzo (@slowstudies ): author, Associate Editor of Black Clock; editor of the online journal [out of nothing]

Kevin Thom (@kevinthom): Ontario-based photographer and publisher of Twitter-fiction @microprose

1:05 PM

Joe Milazzo: The four of you are all engaged in rather different literary projects involving Twitter. But in the interests of identifying some common ground, could each of you speak to what drew you to want to experiment with Twitter in the first place?

1:07 PM

Phil Gyford: I’d been running http://www.pepysdiary.com/ (the daily entries of a diary from 17th century London) for a few years and was going to start a Twitter feed linking to each day’s entry.

Collin Kelley: I’m a poet, and I wanted to meet other poets on Twitter. I soon realized poets were all trying to find each other, so I started creating a directory of poets using Twitter. I posted that directory on my blog and thousands of people came to my blog to see it.

Phil Gyford: Then I realized it made more sense to post quotes from each diary entry during the relevant day, as if he was Twittering the day’s events in real time.

1:08 PM

Kevin Thom: I was looking to enjoy Twitter in way that was more personal to me than just the average “I’m having breakfast” kind of updates I was seeing. I was inspired by some of the brief and beautiful Tweets I’d seen from friends, and soon found an entire community of microfiction writers. Andy Hunter: We are always looking for ways that literary content can have more reach. Twitter seemed a natural. Rick Moody was interested in how limitations can influence the form of a work. As an author of long sentences, he was interested in the brevity and haiku-like nature of the Tweet.

1:09 PM

Joe Milazzo: Quite a range of interests here… from community building to audience building (which can often be one and the same thing) to pure experimentation to using Twitter as a kind of performance platform.

1:10 PM

Kevin Thom: It was also a way for me to try to translate my photographic style into other media. (Since photography is my day job.)

Collin Kelley: It was a community builder for me. I wanted to help other poets build their following and reach a larger audience. Out of creating the directory, I was asked to co-edit the issue of Ocho (a literary magazine) featuring some of the Twitter poets.

Joe Milazzo: Kevin — so, is it fair to say that Twitter has helped you expand your artistic practice?

1:11 PM

Andy Hunter: I imagine there’s common ground in the form: the limitations of Twitter require an attention to detail, and exactness of language, that suits poets and careful writers of prose, the sentence-obsessed.

Kevin Thom: Yes, definitely. I think all creative outlets can expand each other.

Joe Milazzo: Yes, Twitter seems to me to be, in part, a kind of Oulipian dream-machine

Kevin Thom: I also do long form improvisational comedy in Toronto, and that helps both my writing and my photography.

Phil Gyford: I find it quite satisfying to trim Pepys’ quite verbose sentences down to 140 characters without changing the essential nature of them.

1:12 PM

Joe Milazzo: Or: when inspiration fails, there are always rules, constraints, and conceptual “games” to “play”

Kevin Thom: Phil, it’s fun to edit things to get to their essence. That appeals to me too.

Andy Hunter: I’m not sure what an Oulipian dream-machine is, but I want one.

Kevin Thom: I think Sony makes it.

Collin Kelley: I’m always looking for useful links to news and info. That’s what one of the reasons I use Twitter.

Joe Milazzo: Maybe if Brion Gysin had been hanging out with Raymond Queneau rather than Burroughs…

1:13 PM

Collin Kelley: And most writers I know — poets, fiction, non-fiction — are using Twitter to promote their work and build a network and fan-base.

1:14 PM

Andy Hunter: We mostly use Twitter to distribute links, in our day-to-day use of it. Perhaps because there’s no one auteur, we’re a publisher, not an artist, although of course we are all writers. But I envy you who use it as a creative outlet. For us, it’s a conduit.

Joe Milazzo: The promotional and community-building aspects interest me as well, in the sense that writers in this day and age seem more and more comfortable doing a lot of, for lack of a better term, “public relations” work for themselves. More so than in the past, during which the writer’s reclusiveness and public silence could be inversely proportionate to his / her fame. And there are a lot of eyes on Twitter.

1:15 PM

Kevin Thom: I think that to succeed, all artists need to learn to be comfortable promoting themselves, and get over the concept that it’s somebody else’s job.

1:16 PM

Collin Kelley: Many writers are turned off by “self-promotion,” but we’re at a time now where the only promotion is self-promotion, especially if you self-publish or work with an indie / micro press

Andy Hunter: There are a lot of eyes, but it’s also ephemeral. If someone isn’t logged on, they can easily miss something.

Joe Milazzo: Or perhaps Twitter and other forms of interactive media are profoundly changing what the writing profession is, what it involves… or reminding us that writing has a history as a profession (and not just a craft.)

Kevin Thom: Twitter and Facebook and all other social media make it easier.

1:17 PM

Andy Hunter: Writers who are best at it, like Colson Whitehead (@colsonwhitehead), are not just self-promoting but are creating unique, vital content for the medium.

Joe Milazzo: Maybe Twitter is the 18th Century coffeehouse of the present day… do you all see / notice quite a bit of artistic exchange via Twitter, etc.? Or: how does being on Twitter, as opposed to just Twitter, the interface itself, effect your work?

1:18 PM

Kevin Thom: Twitter, with all its rigidity, imposes a useful framework and structure that ends up creating a form of art all its own.

Phil Gyford: I’m not sure that I have any “artistic exchange”, on Twitter or otherwise :)

Collin Kelley: I interviewed Margaret Atwood a few weeks ago and she likened Twitter to the telegraph. It’s a way to send out vital info and notes. At least it is for her.

Kevin Thom: I liken it to the frame of a photograph, which also imposes a limitation of the entire world in front of the lens.

Andy Hunter: I fear that writers are great procrastinators, so to some extent I am afraid it takes away from their work. Also, all these micro-rewards alter our brain structure and make it harder to think meditatively.

1:20 PM

Collin Kelley: I talked about this on Melissa Broder’s blog last week. http://www.melissabroder.com/2010/richard-hugo-didnt-Twitter/

Joe Milazzo: Well, traditionally, writing has been seen as this solitary activity… but there is also a long tradition of writing that emerges from social — by which I do not mean overly political; rather, something more akin to “literary hanging out” — engagement

Collin Kelley: I think it has much to do with time management

Joe Milazzo: Collin — the responses Melissa received were pretty wide-ranging as well.

1:21 PM

Collin Kelley: Any kind of social networking can be a time-sucker, but you have to be able to turn it off in your brain and get back to the real work.

Andy Hunter: It’s wonderful that it can be an art form. And as such, it has more in common with poetry. As communication, it can be wonderful. But the time spent ruminating on any one Tweet is significantly less than a great line in a printed poem, I think.

Kevin Thom: I don’t consider my own Twitter fiction to be social at all. I write and I put it out there, without any expectation that anyone else will read it. I do interact with other microfiction authors, but it seems separate from the act of writing.

Joe Milazzo: It seems like most writers feel they have to “deal,” cope or otherwise investigate this thing, Twitter, that is happening outside of yet parallel to their interests, but embracing it… that is a whole other matter —

1:22 PM

Joe Milazzo: Kevin, your response prompts me to ask all: how do you expect readers to interact with your various Twitter initiatives? Assuming you have any expectations

Collin Kelley: I think more writers are coming around to social networking. It reminds me of all the literary magazines who said they would never have an online edition or accept work via email. Now they all do.

1:23 PM

Kevin Thom: I don’t really have any expectations about that. I do it because I want to and I can. I get a lot of satisfaction from paring down a feeling or a relationship or a thought to the 140 character limit. If others want to read it, or if they comment, it’s flattering, but not necessary for me.

1:25 PM

Andy Hunter: Kevin, do you worry that these Tweets are lost in time, like tears in the rain (Blade Runner)? When we re-printed the Moody story in our journal, many people responded positively to both their ability to more meaningfully engage with content, and the sense of permanence it has..

Collin Kelley: I don’t have any expectations either. I just try to make the Tweet useful in some way. I like to share links and promote other writers. I can’t stand the whole “I just ate breakfast,” “i just got up,” “i just took a crap.”

Joe Milazzo: Kevin, it seems as if, in some sense, Twitter itself helps to give form to what otherwise might lack shapeliness. That seems consistent with principles very familiar to anyone who works in non-linguistic media, but writers, other than poets, seem less inclined (or perhaps have not been trained so much) to give the power of form to create meaning much consideration.

1:26 PM

Kevin Thom: Andy, they may be lost in time, or in the flood of new content, but I know where to find them again if I want to. Also, they do seem to be a bit ephemeral. The good news is I can make more :P

Joe Milazzo: Collin — so, Twitter as conventionally used is of little interest to you? How do others feel?

1:27 PM

Collin Kelley: Now that Google is streaming Twitter and making it searchable, I don’t think it’s lost.

Kevin Thom: Joe, definitely to me I enjoy using Twitter to bring form to the formless.

Collin Kelley: I’d like to think that the way I use Twitter is the conventional way.

Phil Gyford: The mundane Tweets are interesting to me if they’re written by people I’m interested in – my friends. Kevin Thom: Sometimes I get a thought while I’m driving or while I’m cooking, and can’t wait to push it into e-reality in a microfiction Tweet.

1:28 PM

Collin Kelley: I don’t even want the mundane from my friends.

Andy Hunter: Who here would want a book published of their best Tweets, and why or why not?

Joe Milazzo: Phil, if Pepys were alive today, do you think he’d be using Twitter? Or would he need, as Andy suggests, a more reflective form (still)?

Kevin Thom: I also have a separate Twitter account I use “traditionally” to promote or socialize.
Joe Milazzo: And, apropos Andy’s question: http://www.Tweetbookz.com/

1:29 PM

Kevin Thom: Andy, I like the concept of a book, but I feel like I need to focus my main creative output on photography, while still enjoying dabbling in things like microfiction.

Phil Gyford: I have no idea. Pepys is only as likely to use it as any top civil servant is. And if he did, it would be very different to the Tweets I’m sending from his secret, personal diary.

Joe Milazzo: Andy, it would have to be a very special kind of book that somehow made a commentary on the Twitter experience itself, and by formal means

Collin Kelley: A book of Tweets — unless it’s flash fiction or haiku — might be boring.

1:30 PM

Collin Kelley: Without the links and interaction, it would just be flat on the page. Literally.

Joe Milazzo: Phil, that is what so interests me about your project, how it seems engaged with all these issues regarding how we now construe what is public and what is private… and those “mundane” Tweets we are all sort of grimacing at here are examples of otherwise private thoughts, sensations, expressions, etc. made public.

Kevin Thom: Collin, there could be a snail-mail address in the book for writing to the author.

1:31 PM

Collin Kelley: LOL, not quite the same

Kevin Thom: Or a carrier pigeon.

Andy Hunter: Certain lines, from certain authors or poems, achieve a life of their own due to some insight, cleverness, or linguistic perfection. Could that happen via Twitter? If a beautiful Tweet happens past, is it remembered a day later?

1:32 PM

Kevin Thom: Certainly!

Collin Kelley: When I co-edited the issue of Ocho, it was about promoting the idea of Twitter. Some of the poems we used were assembled lines. One poet even created a sonnet out of Tweets.

Joe Milazzo: Myself, I think it is important to keep certain writing “native” to Twitter. Rick Moody’s “Some Contemporary Characters” was, for me, about the experience of reading Twitter and trying to keep the thread of the story alive even as one managed other Tweets in one’s queue, etc.

1:33 PM

Joe Milazzo: Twitter, to me, gets increasingly interesting as it ages… I mean, in the context of what Twitter is and how it is all about the present, a Tweet from as recent as October 2009 feels incredibly old to me… it is the archaeological repository (the midden?) of the recent past.

1:34 PM

Collin Kelley: A couple of writers I know have tried to Tweet sections of their book. …entire chapters. It’s a bit hard to follow, but an interesting an idea.

Phil Gyford: I haven’t read much fiction on Twitter to be honest, but when I have it felt like it got in the way of my main use — keeping in touch with friends. So, because the fragments of Twitter fiction are so intermingled with other texts, the contexts different readers bring vary much more than with other forms.

1:35 PM

Collin Kelley: Twitter is entering a new phase. When they start putting up the advertising, I’ll be interested to see how many people it drives away.

Joe Milazzo: Well, Twitter this week just reached its ten billionth Tweet “milestone”… though said Tweet was private / protected and no one really knows what was said… a sign of things to come?

Phil Gyford: If I followed a more varied selection of people – more famous people, more bots, more people writing fiction – Twitter fiction would probably fit in better with my use of it.

Andy Hunter: I think writing has to fit the form. I’m against using Twitter to publish work that was written for a different format. But I’m completely for work that is written for the medium, and especially if it somehow incorporates the social nature of the service as well as its limitations.

1:36 PM

Joe Milazzo: Ten Billionth Tweet source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/Twitter/7375442/Twitter-hits-10-billionth-Tweet.html

Kevin Thom: I think Twitter fiction should be designed and written to match the limitations and advantages of Twitter.

Joe Milazzo: So, when you move expression into and out of Twitter, what transformations — if any — does it undergo? Is something always lost?

Andy Hunter: But Phil, what you are publishing is not “keeping in touch with friends.”

Kevin Thom: To serialize a book through Twitter seems a bit cumbersome.

1:37 PM

Collin Kelley: Kevin, I agree.

Phil Gyford: Andy, yes, I know, and it’s possible I wouldn’t read Pepys if I wasn’t publishing it myself :)

Joe Milazzo: What if — and I believe some writers are doing this — as an author, you Tweeted as one of the characters you had invented?

Joe Milazzo: And, Phil… so is it fair to say your project is as much about your reading experience of Pepys as it is about “sharing” him?

1:38 PM

Phil Gyford: Joe — I’m not sure I understand

Kevin Thom: Joe, I don’t like to put a judgment of “gained” or “lost” on it, because it is just what it is. When it’s done right, it could not be done any other way and still be the same thing.

Collin Kelley: I like what Phil has done with Pepys. It brings new readers to SP’s work and hopefully a reader will want to explore more deeply.

1:39 PM

Andy Hunter: I think Tweeting in-character is a great idea and we’ve been trying to find someone to do it. And I think John Wray (@john_wray) does it, after a fashion, consistently.

Joe Milazzo: Phil — I guess it is a question of how you chose what and when to pull from Pepys’ work for publishing on Twitter. To me, that is as much a record of your reading him as it is anything else.

Kevin Thom: Collin — that’s interesting to me from an improvisational comedy point of view. I used to write the occasional blog entry as a stream of consciousness from a character I’d invented on the spot. It was my way of doing improv online.

1:40 PM

Phil Gyford: Joe — I guess so. But I’m also trying to give a balanced view of Pepys’ life that day. So, a mixture of mundane and more outlandish events.

Joe Milazzo: Andy, I was thinking of John Wray. But I wonder if such a project makes more sense for novelists, who are used to characters taking on lives of their own (after a fashion) than writers in other genres. Phil — so, your project is a kind of digest?

Collin Kelley: There are a couple of people who Tweet in character and do it well: There’s a guy who Tweets as the Gene Hunt character from [the television series] Ashes To Ashes (@genehunt) who is brilliant. And another who Tweets at Carlotta Valdes, the painting from Hitchcock’s Vertigo (@carlotta_valdes).

1:41 PM

Phil Gyford: Joe — Yes, I suppose it is. A “lite” version of the diary entries, but also more real time, so it feels more like he’s living his life alongside your own.

Joe Milazzo: Collin — how do you see poets best taking advantage of the artistic potential of Twitter?

Phil Gyford: Last year I worked on a website for a UK TV drama about teenagers in which the main characters all had active Twitter accounts, e.g.: http://Twitter.com/SimonMisfits.

1:42 PM

Kevin Thom: Phil — that’s cool.

Joe Milazzo: Phil — does Pepys feel more contemporary to you as a consequence of your work on this project?

Phil Gyford: Whoever wrote the Twitters did a good job of keeping in character and expanding them beyond the weekly TV show: http://Twitter.com/nathanmisfits.

Kevin Thom: Phil — it’s a great way to keep the show relevant while it’s between episodes.

1:43 PM

Collin Kelley: Most of the poets I know are looking for opportunities. They want links to submit work, share their upcoming readings. Others are Tweeting haiku and lines of their work. I think it has many potential uses for poets.

Andy Hunter: I hope Twitter might improve writing. I’m a big fan of the ol’ Strunk & White “Omit unnecessary words.” In our slush pile, it seems many still believe adding words (fancy ones, typically) makes you an official writer. Twitter could help people get in the habit of pruning.

Phil Gyford: Joe, I’m not sure about “contemporary”, although some people assume it’s all made-up as they draw very direct parallels between his Tweets and modern-day events!

1:44 PM

Joe Milazzo: Phil, that’s interesting, especially for s a project that also feels to me to be related to augmented reality games and other forms of (unbounded or strictly “unstaged”) performance. And I suppose what you describe is inevitable given the platform itself.

1:45 PM

Phil Gyford: Andy, Interesting that you think Twitter’s brevity could improve writing, and I know what you mean, but in contrast many people have been concerned about teenagers writing in “TXT-speak” because they use it all the time in SMS messages — I’m not sure Twitter will help that!

1:46 PM

Kevin Thom: People complaining about TXT-speak seems as ridiculous to me as people complaining that handwriting doesn’t look like typing. Each way of communicating eventually evolves to fit its medium.

1:47 PM

Collin Kelley: I think you can make a perfectly coherent sentence in a Tweet without resorting to TXT-speak. It’s like poetry — using the least amount of words for maximum effect.

Kevin Thom: That being said, I won’t use TXT-speak, even when sending SMS.

Joe Milazzo: But our language is always changing and adjusting to the realities we create for ourselves… surely the rise of the newspaper, for example, altered the way language was used, and in ways that felt like a diminution or degrading of discourse to those alive at the time.

Andy Hunter: OMG, TXT-speak is like, WTF is happening to the English Language? Last time I spoke with Gary Shteyngart he was writing his next novel in txt speak (not sure if he stuck with it.) He said, “text communication destroying the written word is the ultimate irony.”

Phil Gyford: Of course you can, and you can punctuate and spell properly in texts. But many people, teenagers and older, don’t bother and it’s normal not to. So I’m not sure there’s a case for it helping what we think of as conventional literacy.

1:48 PM

Andy Hunter: I think most serious writers using Twitter won’t use TXT-speak, and I guess that’s who I was thinking of when I spoke of limitations helping people analyze and refine their writing.

Joe Milazzo: TXT-speak communication is “the written word” for many these days.

1:49 PM

Collin Kelley: Tao Lin (@tao_lin) has made a career out of it. He uses it abundantly in his novel

1:51 PM

Andy Hunter: The problem with TXT-speak is it aint pretty. I have no problem with the evolution of language, but loving writing includes fetishization of words. It’s hard to feel that way about acronyms.

1:52 PM

Kevin Thom: I think it’s just a fetishization that is incompatible with the fetishization of regular words.

Joe Milazzo: Well, you could also use Twitter to compose an incredibly long sentence, 140 characters at a time…

Kevin Thom: Like the incompatibility between soft candlelight romance and hard leather and chains.

1:54 PM

Joe Milazzo: Re: the long sentence proposal: my point being, Twitter only “imposes” so much… it is like any constraint; part of the pleasure lies in finding innovative ways to solve or work around it… which leads to my next question… Andy, Collin and Kevin, too, going back to your initial comments about hat you like about Twitter: ee like to say, or pretend, that with respect to a phenomenon as new or unprecedented as Twitter, that “there are no rules” for how it may be used and what significance it may ultimately have. But Twitter has been around for 4 years now, an eternity in online time, and it has a history. Do you feel there any rules in place, really, especially when it comes to Twitter literature?

1:55 PM

Andy Hunter: Rules for Twitter fiction: 1. Write for the medium, don’t just break up a story into 140 character increments.

1:56 PM

Collin Kelley: I don’t think there are any rules, at least none that have become set rules. If there are, someone please share them.

Andy Hunter: 2. Don’t tell anyone it’s fiction.

Kevin Thom: I don’t think there are any rules, like anyone is going to come out of your computer and ban you from Twitter for breaking them, but I think that there are things that could make writing effective for the medium. Andy’s “Rule 1″ is one of those things.

1:57 PM

Andy Hunter: 3. End each story with “ROFL”

Collin Kelley: I agree Kevin.

Joe Milazzo: What about LMAO?

Kevin Thom: Those both use valuable letters!

Andy Hunter: 4. Ending a story with ROFLMAO is acceptable but self-aggrandizing.

1:58 PM

Kevin Thom: You may use OMGWTFBBQ! only once in your career.

Andy Hunter: I’m sorry you just used up yours. Or does it occurring in Gchat exempt you?

Joe Milazzo: Seems like overt self-aggrandizement could be interpreted as a commentary on Twitter itself… but who wants to get all meta- at this point?

Kevin Thom: Dammit. There are no exemptions.

1:59 PM

Andy Hunter: I’m going to save mine for a special occasion. I can’t wait.

Joe Milazzo: BBQ is always a special occasion.

Kevin Thom: It’s hard to aggrandize yourself too much in 140 characters, but you could always link to a blog post.

Collin Kelley: Slightly off topic, but does anyone have an opinion about Google’s new Buzz feature?

Kevin Thom: Collin–I don’t know if I’ll ever use it, but it’s cool that it’s there.

2:00 PM

Joe Milazzo: Collin–I’ve not tried it… though the little rainbow speech balloon doo-hickey keeps staring balefully at me as I try desperately to stay current on my correspondence

Kevin Thom: Google needs to find ways to spend all these dollars they’re making! Might as well be developing social media of limited usefulness.

Joe Milazzo: Staring, that is, as if to say: “Don’t you know email is obsolete?”

Phil Gyford: I felt I have enough ways to keep in touch with people for the moment, and didn’t want to spend time figuring another one out and then having to use it.

Andy Hunter: I’m frightened of anything new, at this point. I don’t have any time left for anything new. Leave me alone, Google Buzz! The worst is that if you don’t participate, people think you’re blowing them off.

2:01 PM

Collin Kelley: I’m on it, but not actively using it. I linked my blog to it, so when I post there it updates Buzz.

Joe Milazzo: Collin — you find it useful?

Collin Kelley: Not really. Since half of my email contacts are on Yahoo. LOL.

Kevin Thom: Ha!

Collin Kelley: And some are still on AOL.

Kevin Thom: Wow. I didn’t know there still was an AOL.

2:02 PM

Joe Milazzo: Sarah Silverman (@sarahksilverman) had a pretty funny riff on AOL after the CEO [?] gave her recent TED Talk a less than stellar review.

Collin Kelley: Shockingly, there is.

Kevin Thom: I haven’t received a CD in the mail lately.

Joe Milazzo: Phil’s response prompts me to recall that, well, yes, there are hidden costs in all this. Time is incredibly scarce in the Twitter era, as is attention. It is easier, in some ways, to waste money that either time or attention.

2:03 PM

Kevin Thom: Multitasking is key. Currently, I’m writing microfiction, doing a swimsuit model photo shoot, playing Nintendo DS, cooking a turkey, and participating in this chat. Hook your finger in the bikini waistband and pop the hip out. Oops wrong window.

2:04 PM

Joe Milazzo: Kevin — which to me proposes that human beings are becoming something they’ve never quite been before in their long and very infrequently illustrious history. But at least Twitter adds to that historical record

Collin Kelley: As soon as we’re done with this chat, I’m signing off to work on my book. I’m done with Twitter for today.

Andy Hunter: OMFG MY AOL CD IS FUBAR, WTF? IS THE CEO ON TED? DS? You guys and your acronyms. You’re ruining beautiful language.

Kevin Thom: Yep. We’re different creatures than we were even a few years ago.

Joe Milazzo: Collin — you find it helps to set such rules for yourself?

Andy Hunter: I LOLed at Kevin’s joke.

Collin Kelley: It’s a must.

2:06 PM

Collin Kelley: I could sit on Twitter or Facebook all day. I’m still an Internet junkie, so I have to turn off the Wi-Fi and get my head back into creating.

Joe Milazzo: OK, allow me one last question, please… What next for you all, in terms of your literary work with / within Twitter and / or social media in general?

Andy Hunter: Joe, I think my question is how that will change our brain structures – the brain being plastic, it surely will – and how that will in turn affect our ability to engage with literature.

Kevin Thom: Good point Collin. It’s easy to get sidetracked when there’s an infinite universe of distraction only seconds away.

2:07 PM

Collin Kelley: For National Poetry Month in April, I’m going to publish a new list of Poets on Twitter.

Kevin Thom: Joe, for me, it’s life as usual. I’m going to flow with what makes me feel good and engages my creativity in a way that supports me and my career as a photographer. If it’s Twitter, that’s great. If it’s the next great thing, then I’m on to that.

Phil Gyford: I have a couple more years of Pepys’s Twitters to go.

Collin Kelley: I get emails and DMs on Twitter wanting to know when I’m going to create a new list.

2:08 PM

Joe Milazzo: Andy, I agree, and I think there’s a great, non-science fiction novel yet to be written about how the internet as it came to be and is has changed human subjectivity.

Joe Milazzo: Phil — did you set out on this project with an end date in mind?

2:09 PM

Phil Gyford: I also think there’s some more Twitter scope in a shared fictional workplace I’m involved in http://Twitter.com/pretendoffice (see also its list of “Colleagues”, each by a different real person). And, Joe, there are nearly 9.5 years of Pepys’ daily diary, so that’s the time limit. Nearly there!

Joe Milazzo: Wow.

Phil Gyford: Sadly, Twitter wasn’t around for most of that time.

Joe Milazzo: I’ll be interested to hear your take on it all once its completed.

by Joe Milazzo
an Associate Editor of Black Clock and Director of Community Education and Outreach at The Writer’s Garret in Dallas, whose writing has appeared in Electronic Book Review, Chronometry, Tea Party, In Posse Review, Antennae and Black Clock



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  1. [...] blog posts include an Internet found poem and its construction; an e-roundtable discussion on how Twitter is changing literature (aka Twitterature); and an imaginary interview with Herman Melville by Emily Kiernan (Critical Studies MFA 11). From [...]


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