Platform Poetics II


Tore Rye Andersen, “Staggered transmissions: Twitter and the return of serialized literature” in Convergence 23.1 (2017) (.pdf)
Jennifer Egan, “Black Box” (3 reading options: i) Twitter @NYerFiction beginning May 24, 2012, ii) Paste “Black Box” – Tweet by Tweet (6 June 2012), or iii) in full in The New Yorker Science Fiction issue (4 June 2012).
David Mitchell’s “The Right Sort” (2 reading options: i) Twitter @david_mitchell beginning July 13, 2014 or ii) The Guardian

“Whether we gain or not by this habit of profuse communication it is not for us to say.” —Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room (1922)

Although tweeting may have seen it’s heyday years ago, the platform is still present in our daily lives by remaining restricted in ways other social media platforms decided to expand. Though Twitter has evolved by doubling its original 150-word count to 280, the fractured prose are still the central focus of the platform rather than live streams or augmented selfies.

I find Twitter to be a fascinating platform, as a young user in high school I would log on to my Twitter feed with the intention of reading. This motive differs drastically from Instagram (the primary social media source that connected users to author’s ideas in the previous week’s readings) which is primarily driven by image (and now video) consumption or Facebook which annihilates any user purpose with media mega-stimulus.

I see Twitter as the modern age’s public square. The focal nodes of Twitter are entrepreneurs, politicians, news broadcasters, and celebrities, I see these folks as Internet-mediated paper boys, cafe loiterers or quasi-Socratic mentors. Users log in to contribute to or reveal another individual’s opinion and stay on top of trending topics, it’s an accelerated center for not just dialogue and public speech, but for ease dropping and information gathering.

Jennifer Egan’s Black Box breaks the reality-based assumptions of the platform by unraveling her fictitious story tweet by tweet. On the surface, the piece could be thought of as trying to appease the unfocused minds of the digitally addicted Millennial generation. Personally, I think this is not entirely true — although I will admit that reading the work was highly satisfying, since the average length of “chapter” or sectional break combined with the line breaks made for a breezy read. The Twitter platform allowed Egan to perform a timely connection with her readers by fashioning an illusion of a character that was mobile in our reality’s time and space. I found it eerie and if I was to read it on my Twitter feed, back in 2012 when it was released, I would have probably been even more enthralled by her story.

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