Is micro blogging the future for writers?

On: October 6, 2010
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About Chris Hoogeveen
Chris had always a great imagination. He made up stories since he was very little. When he mastered the art of writing he found out that the pen is a very powerful weapon. Not just for stabbing annoying people. After Highschool Chris applied for the School of Media. He got in, but he choose a much safer path (career wise). For one year he studied Management, Economie & Recht. Very soon he knew it wasn't his best move. Next year he applied again for the School of Media. And even the second time he got in. It must be faith. Or just massive talent. Journalism was the way to go. In the third year he specialized in media productions and made a short promotional movie for FC Zwolle. After that he did an internship at Scriptstudio Endemol and worked for a short period at Omroep Zwolle. He also got an offer to ghost write a book, but he declined once he found out he would lose all of his rights. That was the moment when he decided to write the story for himself. Once he finished his education at the School of Media he applied for the Schrijversvakschool (Writers School). Once again he got in. Yes, it must and can only be because of his talent. During his first year he realized that he was the youngest of all students. He was just a little boy in the eyes of the others. It was time for a change, it was time for the University of Amsterdam. Hard work got him through the Pre-master. This year it is time for some serious business. Chris just sharpened his pencil. So, watch out..... for some serious blogging.

Website
http://www.twitter.com/maffechris    

Micro blogging gained a lot of success over the past few years. With the arrival of web 2.0 there was a need for a new form of writing. Long articles and ongoing features were not what people wanted anymore. There was a need for shorter form of writing. Online publications of papers became brief summaries about news events. There was no room for long, ongoing articles. Things had to be short. The attention span for reading on the web was way shorter than that of a newspaper or a book. Eventually the attention span shrank even more with the arrival of micro blogging.

Micro narratives
Twitter is one of the most popular micro blogs. Every second 600 new Tweets are posted on the web.  These numbers are still growing. Everyone has something to say. And they do it on Twitter. If it isn’t a sarcastic comment on a peripatetic, then it is a Tweet about a concert you’re attending or just a picture of your cat. People or Tweeple post all sorts of things on micro blogs. But where does it end? Is there a limitation to what you can post? Yes! Well, if you count the characters of your postings. But that is not the point. How far can you take the content of your Tweet? Hendry Lee from BlogBuildingU.com says: “It seems like every day there are new ways to use Twitter. Some of those tools stay, but a few of them are no longer with us.”[1] So, can you really cross the boundaries? Or aren’t there any? Can you for instance publish a book by micro blogging? Create your first Tweet book. Or can I write my thesis on Twitter? Not just on Twitter, but on Twitter.

“After the novel, and subsequently cinema privileged narrative as the key form of cultural expression of the modern age, the computer age introduces its correlate – database. Many new media objects do not tell stories; they don’t have beginning or end; in fact, they don’t have any development, thematically, formally or otherwise which would organize their elements into a sequence. Instead, they are collections of individual items, where every item has the same significance as any other.” [2] (Manovich)

Can a new media object like Twitter tell a story? If we believe Lev Manovich micro blogs are considered databases. But like every database Twitter has also micro narratives. It consists of small parts of someone’s everyday life. What if we can arrange the database in a way that every micro narrative, like DNA, is connected to another and creates a greater narrative; the grand narrative called a novel or a thesis for that matter.

Tweet Book
Tweeple use micro blogging to express their emotions, to get attention on certain subjects, like for instance: political matters or advertising. Others use it for instant messaging or keep in contact with their friends and family. Micro blogging is a common research subject. So how do we make it interesting as a study object? Many companies use twitter for promotional reasons. In this scenario Twitter is the channel. But what if you don’t look at Twitter as a channel, but as the message itself? What if this medium is the message? What if Twitter is the cover of a new book, the pages of a thesis? Then these writings are actually on Twitter.

Through Tweetbook.in you can create a book from all your Twitter content. “With tweetbook you can generate a pdf e-book of your latest tweets and favorites. Also share the tweetbook with your friends!” This way you can create your own autobiography. Look and see for yourself. You will be amazed to see how much you already published about whom you are and what you do. Throughout the years people tell more about themselves than each individual Tweet on a daily basis does.

Tweet Book: reality or fiction?

Besides Tweetbook there is another feature that disregard the essentials of micro blogging. Via several sites you can post a longer Tweet on Twitter. The 140-character limit isn’t a limitation anymore. But what if we take it a few steps further? I’m not looking for a micro content blog like Tumblr.  I want to see if micro blogging is backwards compatible with old school blogging or even a book. Would it be possible to use micro blogging for writing a novel or a thesis? Will people read these long paragraphs? Will the attention span be any different? And will micro blogging have the potential for an excessive amount of information? Or is Twitter only forward compatible and are we working our way through nano blogging?

The future of the written word
Storytelling is as old as humanity. In the Stone Age people told their stories through cave paintings. Later on Bards told these stories. With the introduction of the printing press a revolution was upon us. Every story could be put down in words, in ink. Many books, newspapers, articles and other publications followed. But with the coming of the digital era printed books don’t seem to matter that much anymore. But is that actually true? Naomi S. Baron thinks not.

“One of the most important affordances of the enduring book has been the ease with which it enables us to contemplate its contents. Assuming the book belongs to us, we can underline and annotate as we see fit, implicitly anticipating a return to the work in the future.”[3] (Baron, 2005)

The book is still a popular item. Even Oprah has is own book club which is very popular. Writing will always be an important part of our culture. Only the way we write (and read) will change over time. According to Anne Helmond journalists have to look for new platforms, new ways of writing. In this case every author should look for new ways of writing and new places to write. To this extent why no look into the possibilities of micro blogging?

Henry Jenkins refers to the change of media as media convergence. The Wachowski Brothers did an excellent job with the Matrix. Bides the movie the Matrix universe was expanded with comics, games, online activity etc. So why not explore the possibilities for other media? So why not expand the universe of your latest novel to the world of micro blogging?

“We are living in an age when changes in communications, storytelling and information technologies are reshaping almost every aspect of contemporary life — including how we create, consume, learn, and interact with each other. A whole range of new technologies enable consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content and in the process, these technologies have altered the ways that consumers interact with core institutions of government, education, and commerce.” (Jenkins)

Don’t writers owe it to themselves to explore other options? Especially when the printed book may become an endangered species. According to Baron that won’t happen any time soon. But we can’t sit and wait. Besides why not reshaping the written culture when every other aspect of contemporary life is reshaped?

If writing through micro blogging would be successful, then Twitter would remediate the book. Eventually you would be able to put together that book by using Tweetbook.in. In that way all the micro narratives will become one grand narrative. You could chose for a quick read every day or chose to read the book as a whole. This will make it easy to read and because it’s digital there are a lot of possibilities for interaction.  You can add hyperlinks and videos. If this would be a writers fantasy or a new niche in the market has yet to be experienced.

[1] http://www.twitip.com/twitter-for-research-why-and-how-to-do-it-including-case-studies/

[2] Manovich, Lev. Database as a Symbolic Form

[3] Baron, Naomi. The Future of Written Culture: Envisioning Language in the New Millennium, 2005

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