[Humanist] 24.193 how sweetly tweet some more

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Jul 13 08:54:55 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 193.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Brett D. Hirsch" <brett.hirsch at uwa.edu.au>              (117)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.190 how sweetly tweet

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (29)
        Subject: doing what one can

        Date: Tue, 13 Jul 2010 14:07:28 +0800
        From: "Brett D. Hirsch" <brett.hirsch at uwa.edu.au>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.190 how sweetly tweet
        In-Reply-To: <20100713053643.2478B3B81D at woodward.joyent.us>

With respect to Professor Kessler, that's an awfully conservative
assessment of poetry. Like Willard, I'm interested in the argument
that Twitter is restrictive to the point of being deterministic.
Couldn't you make the same (strained) argument about any poetic form?
Does size really matter?

Take the following quintessential example of Imagist poetry by Ezra Pound:

In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Including the title of the piece, that's 99 characters in total. You
could add "Ezra Pound" in brackets after the title and still be under
the Twitter character limit.

Or this short poem by William Carlos Williams:

The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

That's 112 characters (including the line breaks). Again, even with
(William Carlos Williams) added after the title, it's still under the
140 character limit. Similar examples abound. Who's to say that the
character limit of Twitter won't encourage poetry like this?

Best wishes,

Dr. Brett D. Hirsch
University Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (M208)
University of Western Australia

Coordinating Editor, Digital Renaissance Editions

Co-Editor, Shakespeare

        Date: Tue, 13 Jul 2010 07:50:11 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: doing what one can
        In-Reply-To: <20100713053643.2478B3B81D at woodward.joyent.us>

With respect to Twitter: isn't the point to do what you can with what 
you've got to do it, with all your might and intelligence?

Isn't computing itself terribly restrictive? Consider the idea of 
computability manifested in the Turing Machine. Now *that's* 
restrictive! And yet look at what we can do, and dream of doing, with at 
least a chance of doing it. Partly it's a matter of turning from the 
restriction to the fast iterative abilities of the machine; partly it's 
a matter of seeing what's left over, which is thus illumined in a new light.

And on that scale of determinisms. Consider the range: from altogether 
dead (or perhaps, as Job wished, not ever having been born at all) to 
Basho, or Alice Munro, or Annie Proulx, or Eric Satie, or whomever you 
wish to name of those who use the simplest means to achieve that which 
makes being conscious worth the pain which comes with it. And consider, 
again, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who told his story -- before Locked-in 
Syndrome got him, not worth the telling despite his life as Editor of 
Elle -- with the blinking of a single eyelid. Even the most highly 
restricted means can be enough if the person has something to say.

No, I'd say that (to speak negatively) the fault for stupidity lies with 
the utterer, not the medium. And I'd suggest that absolute determinism 
is possibly even more restrictive than biological death, which after all 
leaves memories, things made and biochemical traces behind.


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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