Twitter and Simple Forms of Literary Expression

On: October 13, 2008
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About Maria Perevalova
I graduated from Moscow State Linguistic University, interpreter department with specialization in Theory and History of Culture. I have working experience in informational and advertising agencies. Present time I am a student at University of Amsterdam, New Media MA programme


Twitter is the most popular platform for microblogging, where short text updates(up to 140 words) are posted and distributed by means of instant messaging, sms, web interface. Microblogging is next in chain of technological tools for communication that follows blogging, social networking and other cyber social “places”. Etymologically microblogging derives from blogging plus the strand micro, from Greek mikros, “small”. The size of small blogging alters blogging characteristics in a range of angles – frequency, genre, subject, intentions.

An average blogger posts once in a few days when microblogging allows to make updates several times per day. Microblogging tends to be more communicative and colloquial. Bloggers write essays, cherishing writing skills, literary style, explicate informational basis and in some rare cases the content is not intended for public but to be a source.

Genres of blogging ranges from literature essays(on whatever subject, from journalistic to  mundane) to entertainment photo or video blogging, business project blogging to educational blogging, etc. Twits evolve the genre of simple forms.  In the history of literature to exemplify there are pieces of simple forms such as aphorisms, limericks(a light humorous, nonsensical, or bawdy verse of five anapestic lines), maxims(an expression of a general truth or principle, especially an aphoristic or sententious one: the maxims of La Rochefoucauld.), haiku, etc.

Haiku supposed to be an aristocratic genre in Japan, pieces of poetry in this genre were being created at emperor court. Masters of haiku put in them feelings of universal peace, meditativeness and slight melancholy. Japanese call this state as “avare” that can be translated as “elegiac fascination of things”. In place of linear perspective of European vision in haiku is implemented a diffused one. The main principle of haiku is “dzuihicu”- a principle of unintentional and unbiased description. The resemblance between haiku and twits lies only in size as the feeling they produce are as different as European and Eastern cultures are. Haiku are about universal peace, twits – universal pulse. Twits form popular, mostly mundane pieces that reflect life on the go. Most posts on Twitter talk about daily routine or what people are currently doing. This is the largest and most common use of Twitter. According to the results of the research held by Akshay Java, Xiaodan Song, Tim Finin and Belle Tseng and concluded in the work “Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities” the most usable words in twitter posts in the order of descending in popularity are just, com, work, time, listening, home, going, day, got, today, good, bed, night, tinyurl, getting, podcast, dinner, watching, like, mass, lunch, new, tomorrow, ready, twitter, working, tonight, morning, need, great, finished, tv. Words vary depending on the interest group, but still the only poetry within is the poetry of everyday life.

The majority of “simple forms” are inherent to a popular culture, as Umberto Eco points out in his article “Umberto Eco: Simple forms and Short Forms” in which he speaks on Andre Jolles’s book “Simple forms” (“Einfache Formen”). These literature forms are characterized by the shortness and structural simplicity, so always adheres to the precise laws, which their authors(individual or collective) stick to. In traditional structural theories simple forms are the subject of research and interest of a number of researchers (Claude Levi-Strauss, Propp). What Umberto Eco says about “simple forms” is: “intense expansion of brief forms can be resulted in getting used to their shortness and easiness for understanding and take away the pleasure and desire to take interest in difficult forms, understanding of which requires time and collaboration with a text and its cultural background.”

Comments are closed.