[Humanist] 24.181 how sweetly tweet

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Jul 10 08:28:06 CEST 2010


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 181.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Martin Mueller <martinmueller at northwestern.edu>          (194)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.179 how sweetly tweet

  [2]   From:    Desiree Scholten <d.v.scholten at students.uu.nl>             (7)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.179 how sweetly tweet

  [3]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (40)
        Subject: replace or augment?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 9 Jul 2010 06:13:02 -0500
        From: Martin Mueller <martinmueller at northwestern.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.179 how sweetly tweet
        In-Reply-To: <20100709051459.60DE72A24B at woodward.joyent.us>

Joel Spolsy in one of his software columns has this to say about Twitter, and it's hard not to agree with much of it:

Although I appreciate that many people find Twitter to be valuable, I find it a truly awful way to exchange thoughts and ideas. It creates a mentally stunted world in which the most complicated thought you can think is one sentence long. It’s a cacophony of people shouting their thoughts into the abyss without listening to what anyone else is saying. Logging on gives you a page full of little hand grenades: impossible-to-understand, context-free sentences that take five minutes of research to unravel and which then turn out to be stupid, irrelevant, or pertaining to the television series Battlestar Galactica. I would write an essay describing why Twitter gives me a headache and makes me fear for the future of humanity, but it doesn’t deserve more than 140 characters of explanation, and I’ve already spent 820.


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 9 Jul 2010 22:00:40 +0200
        From: Desiree Scholten <d.v.scholten at students.uu.nl>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.179 how sweetly tweet
        In-Reply-To: <20100709051459.60DE72A24B at woodward.joyent.us>


also, I would like to add that personally I appreciate an eloquent tweet
very much, as it is tricky to write something both meaningful and eloquent
in 140 chars only...
In that sense it is a form of enrichment of language as it touches upon
creativity with language.

Desiree Scholten




--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2010 07:16:55 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: replace or augment?
        In-Reply-To: <20100709051459.60DE72A24B at woodward.joyent.us>

With regards to the subject of tweeting's rhetorical powers (or lack of 
them), isn't the error we might make, and do, to regard it as a 
replacement for other kinds of writing rather than an augmentation of 
writing? We certainly tend to make the same mistake when we think about 
the digital book, as if a daisy were an inferior kind of rose, put out 
of business by the rose. To think pedagogically isn't the real problem 
to show others that tweeting opens up a new area of expression with 
certain powers and characteristics?

Of course time is limited, so if you tweet very much you won't have time 
for writing long notes e.g. to Humanist. If the digital medium turns out 
to be best adapted within the scholar's life for reading articles rather 
than books, or more broadly for trashy novels rather than good ones, and 
if in the administrator's domain it shows itself superior for dealing 
with what Jim O'Donnell calls "shovelware", then the domain of print 
shrinks a bit. Uses change. Wouldn't it be desirable if we looked at the 
incursion of the new like this rather than as a replacing of the old 
tout court?

My initial question, whether there is a poetics of tweeting, could be 
rephrased as the question of where we look for guidance, for 
instruction. To haiku, for example? To the poets not writing in Japanese 
who were influenced by it, e.g. (ironically) Robert Bly?

Bly is an ironic example because he has levelled serious charges at our 
medium. See his Introduction to The Best American Poetry 1999, at 
www.robertbly.com/r_e_bap.html, on the cooling of language. Bly cites 
Sven Birkerts: "We are losing our grip, collectively, on the logic of 
complex utterance, on syntax; we are abandoning the rhythmic, poetic 
undercurrents of expression." Birkerts (with whom I once debated and, 
though academic decorum did not permit a vote to be taken, I was and 
remain certain he lost) is a champion of decline-and-fall, 
hell-in-a-handbasket. But is there any evidence *at all* that tweeting, 
e-mailing etc etc have muted us, cooled off our language, taken away 
while not at the same time giving us something else that is only 
different, not necessarily worse?

Yours,
WM

-- 
Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.





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