Social Media Narrative:
The Rutgers Camden Digital Studies Center
Facebook, November 16 - 21, 2016
D ene Grigar is Professor and Director of The Creative Media & Digital Culture Program at Washington State University Vancouver. Her research focuses on the creation, curation, preservation, and criticism of Electronic Literature, specifically building multimedial environments and experiences for live performance, installations, and curated spaces; for the Library of Congress and Modern Language Association, among other venues) desktop computers; and mobile media devices. With Stuart Moulthrop (University of Wisconsin Milwaukee) she was the recipient of a 2013 NEH Start Up grant for a digital preservation project for early electronic literature, entitled Pathfinders, which culminated in an open source, multimedia book for scholars. She is President of the Electronic Literature Organization and Associate Editor of Leonardo Reviews.
The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project was a performative collaborative work for which she edited her stories about living in Dallas, Texas into Twitter-sized literary texts and posted one every hour for 24 hours -- inviting others to contribute.
The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project
The 24-Hour Micro-E-Lit Project was greatly influenced by the work of Jay Bushman, who is also participating in this event. In the summer of 2008 he attended the conference I chaired for the Electronic Literature Organization in Vancouver, WA and exhibited/performed "The Good Captain" (http://jaybushman.com/The-Good-Captain). It was the first work of Twitterature I had experienced, and as a lover of constrained writing, I was hooked.
Constrained writing offers a unique challenge in that it forces us to express ourselves within a tight structure. As a form of constrained writing, flash fiction requires us to express ourselves in a brief and pithy way. But Twitterature is flash fiction on steroids: We only get 140 characters to convey a story containing conflict, characters, setting, mood, and other narrative elements -- hence, the term "micro" in the title of my project. Even my favorite work of flash fiction, Richard Brautigan's "Scarletti Tilt" is 34 words and over 175 characters in length. How could anyone do better than this masterpiece of brevity?
Also important to storytelling on a social media channel like Twitter is its participatory quality. Unlike Brautigan, who was writing a story in a one-to-many approach, my work had the distinct opportunity to involve others in making the narrative come to life. With that idea in mind, I developed an overarching theme of "metro life" and channeled experiences I had had and people I had met from when I lived in Dallas, TX. Unforgiving traffic, ubiquitous fast food joints, the desperation to find one's individuality and humanity all reflect what it was like to live in the fourth largest city in the country at the beginning of the 21st century. Then I invited people from all over the Twittersphere to join me in a 24-hour storytelling extravaganza where I would post one of my 24 stories each hour at the beginning of the hour. Participants were encouraged to post theirs as well. And I captured all of our stories on my website. At the heart of my enterprise was to collect stories about "life in the 21st century" from all over the world.
As mentioned on the project website, over 85 stories were posted beyond the 24 that I produced. We experienced no trolling; folks were encouraging and afforded participants a wide berth to play with language and social interactions. I chalk this up to the fact that Twitter was just starting to see massive growth (over 700% in 2008 alone!); those people who hung out on it were, like me, experimenting with it and testing its limits as a social site and a channel of communication and creative expression.
My next project will be to tweet the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights on Inauguration Day (Friday January 20, 2017) to remind ourselves the principles we, as a people living in a democracy, hold dear. I ask for participation by having Followers retweet these important words so that we can all read them together and recommit to their ideals. I hope you will join me.
Transcript of The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project conversation