One new blog is seeking to critically analyze 140 characters.
The blog, Twit Crit, officially launched last week, and is meant to provide a space to discuss and critically analyze Twitter.
So far, it contains a post on one of Joyce Carol Oates’ tweets and a post on retweeting, but they’re looking to collect posts from their friends and students at the Kelly Writers House.
The idea for the blog arose from discussions at a Kelly Writers House planning committee meeting. Three people — Lily Applebaum, 2012 College graduate and assistant to professor Al Filreis at the Writers House, College junior Jessica Bergman and College freshman and 34th Street Copy Editor Madeleine Wattenbarger — got to talking about Twitter and how it can be seen as its own literary form.
“We talk about Twitter all the time,” Wattenbarger, who is also a contributing writer for The Daily Pennsylvanian, said in an email. “ I think we were all kind of obsessed with the ways Twitter serves as a unique literary form. I could talk about it forever, and I think about it all the time, but there wasn’t a centralized place on the internet to discuss it. So Twit Crit wants to be that space.”
At first, the three decided to plan an event at the Kelly Writers House as a kickoff for Twit Crit. The idea for the blog came as they were planning the event. The event, which took place Thursday, April 11, featured a lecture with a poet named Patricia Lockwood, who has gathered a large following on Twitter.
Lockwood, or @tricialockwood as she is known to her over 19,300 followers on Twitter, spoke about using the social media site to write her poetry. She mentioned six different writings that can be found on Twitter, including real-time autobiography and “Weird Twitter,” a surreal and absurdist use of Twitter.
One way that Lockwood herself uses Twitter is in her recent poetry series called “Sext,” in which she tweets the phrase “sext:” followed by a random line like “An iceberg whispers to you, ‘Just the tip.’”
Applebaum hopes that Twit Crit will now provide a place for poems like these to be examined and discussed.
“The concept of Twitter is language-based, as opposed to Facebook or any other social media platform which is actually about connecting to people,” Applebaum said. “Twitter’s about connecting to people too, but first and foremost I think it’s about constraint-based writing.”
According to Applebaum, this constraint-based writing lends itself to an interesting product. In theory, it forces the writer to think about what he or she is trying to say and then creatively fit it into 140 characters.
The co-founders do, however, realize that not all Twitter users take the site as seriously as they do. Some people just jot down what they had for lunch that day, but Twit Crit will focus on the more thought-out material found on Twitter.
“Like any medium, Twitter is used in really highbrow and really lowbrow ways,” Wattenbarger said. “On Twitter, those mix together incredibly.”
Wattenbarger, or @youarebananas, tries to avoid tweeting mundane “what-I’m-doing-right-now-type tweets.” She occasionally posts links to articles, but she says she mainly posts puns and witty tweets.
Applebaum, otherwise known as @citrusade, uses her own personal Twitter account to capture anything she overhears that stands out to her “at the level of the sentence, they’re interesting linguistically, they have cool sounds in them or they’re funny,” she said.
Through Twit Crit, they plan to create a community that thinks seriously and creatively about Twitter.
Yet some English professors aren’t completely convinced that there is a definitive need to critique tweets.
While English professor James English does have a Twitter account, he thought that Twit Crit “sound[ed] suspiciously like the set-up for a Monty Python skit.” That being said, he had no objections to the blog.
“No reason why it can’t or shouldn’t be used artistically, creatively, experimentally,” he said in an email.
Deborah Burnham, associate undergraduate chair in the English Department, doesn’t tweet, but agrees that there’s no reason not to critique tweets.
She does say that she’s not quite sure what criteria would be for such a critique. “This is something that does have to be worked out,” she said in an email.
Applebaum, however, is confident that Twit Crit will be successful.
The fact that tweets are constrained “means is that a project like ours can be successful because tweets are so short and there’s really a lot of subtext to a tweet,” she said.
For now, Applebaum and her co-founders aren’t looking to monetize the blog in any way — they’re just looking to expand the site and establish regular contributors.
“We just want it to be an open dedicated space for writing and reflecting on Twitter,” Applebaum said.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.