Werner Twertzog– Back from the Dead

TwertzogBack

Werner Twertzog is back from the void of Twitter deactivation.

My recent entry on Werner Twertzog’s disappearance came a couple of weeks after his June 18 exit, announced on a tweet that I missed at the time and had no access to because upon deactivation, all of his tweets disappear from Twitter’s public interfaces and are reported as nonexistent.

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Werner Twertzog– he dead?

TwertzogProfileWayback
Internet Archive snapshot of Werner Twertzog’s Twitter page on February 27, 2015.

Werner Twertzog (@WernerTwertzog) is a persona that performs a parodic homage of German filmmaker Werner Herzog on Twitter. This humorous account does an admirable job of capturing Herzog’s voice in (necessarily) brief, aphoristic tweets that express his existentialist perspective and wry humor.

Performing a celebrity’s persona for artistic, humorous, and/or political purposes has recently become a social media trend. Some notable examples are @SlavojTweezek, @TheTweetOfGod, God (on Facebook), and Kim Kierkegaardashian. Werner Herzog’s inimitable verbal style has even been the subject of a series of YouTube videos by Ryan Iverson, such as “Werner Herzog Reads Where’s Waldo?” The Twitter account, Werner Twertzog, has been so successful that its last name has become a term (“Twertzog: To tweet (verb) or a tweet (noun) in a dark, German style that seems erudite, absurd, and possibly morbid.” see this recent interview), a hashtag #twertzog, and a day-long celebration on September 5 (see image below) in which people try to tweet like Werner Twertzog (see image below).

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[Untitled] by Jeremy Hight (Part 1 of ?)

Hight's announcement
Hight’s announcement

On Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 6:45 pm Jeremy Hight announced that he had begun a new series that would be “published” on his timeline and allowed to “float away down its river.” To think of the Facebook timeline as a river is a substantial change in the metaphor Facebook has implemented as an organizing principle for the mass of status updates, photos, and other material people share on this social network. A timeline can be explored with considerably less metaphorical effort than navigating upstream. There are no ancient philosophical pronouncements about never being able to step into the same timeline twice. To think of Facebook as a river is to highlight its endless flow and the irretrievable nature of a moment– correctly so– but that isn’t the only metaphor Hight is activating here. He refers to these posts as “publication,” a word that comes charged with centuries of print history and the circulation of the written word in ways that suggests a modicum of permanence, the slice of immortality beyond the ephemeral moment that Shakespeare wrote about.

The problem is that Facebook posts aren’t ephemeral. They are digital objects stored and backed up in Facebook servers with timestamps and a unique URL, which like Twitter posts, can be embedded into WordPress blogs (as of September 2013). So there is a way to circumvent Hight’s intention of having this narrative exist only on Facebook, and here it is, embedded into this post:

https://www.facebook.com/jeremy.hight.3/posts/10152064227364177

Hmm. Well played, Mr. Hight, well played.

Okay then, let this be a reminder that just because while the entry is published, it isn’t public. Upon closer inspection, I (who have the privilege to be his Facebook friend), noticed that the entries for this narrative are shared only with his friends, so even if you “follow” his entries, he needs to become “friends” with you to grant access to this narrative. Perhaps this is an oversight, since he does post public entries in his timeline (I tested this by following him with a different account). Or perhaps, like Emily Dickinson, who shared her poems with her friends and acquaintances by copying them by hand and mailing them in letters, Hight wishes to share this work with a select audience of people he knows and trusts enough to establish bilateral communication with in Facebook.

The preservationist in me wants to capture these entries and it would be easy to do so, by screen capturing the posts or by cutting and pasting their text into a new document, but as discussed in my series on William Gibson’s vanishing poem Agrippa,  I would only be capturing an aspect of the work by creating different computational objects. Besides, it begs the question: do I have the right to copy his work? Would this act be a violence against Hight’s intentions? I don’t wish to betray our friendship. I could provide links to the entries so fellow Facebook friends can access them, but it would be better to direct people to February 16, 2014 on his Timeline, which would provide a fuller context. Perhaps when it’s over, I’ll ask Hight to download his Facebook Archive and share the data with me, or archive it somehow.

Or perhaps I should enjoy it as it happens, share the experience with fellow friends, and appreciate it more for its “lability.”

You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned what the story is about. That will be the focus of the next entry in this series.

“A Look Back” by Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook Team

Screen Capture from "A Look Back" by Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook Team. A video player with a centered text in white with the Facebook Logo. Text: "A Look Back".
Open “A Look Back” by Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook Team

On Tuesday, February 4, 2013, Facebook released a generated video titled “A Look Back” to commemorate their 10th anniversary.

A Look Back is an experience that compiles your highlights since joining Facebook. Depending on how long you’ve been on Facebook and how much you’ve shared, you’ll see a movie, a collection of photos or a thank you card (link).

For those who have share plenty, this work assembles images and status updates from your Facebook feed and arranges them to be displayed on a video template that organizes them into several topics, to be described below. One could see this generated movie is a kind of Hallmark ecard from Facebook to you, designed to please you with pretty music and images you’re most likely to enjoy. And at that level, the work is a likeable bauble, as enjoyable and forgettable as a well chosen greeting card or something you’ve “liked” on Facebook. But part of its interest is in how effectively Facebook is able to use its metadata to mine its user’s database and generate a a surprisingly effective customized experience that could be considered an unexpected e-poem.

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“What Would I Say?” by Pawel, Vicky, Ugne, Daniel, Harvey, Edward, Alex, and Baxter

Sample output generated from my Facebook feed.
Sample output generated from my Facebook feed.

This app uses your Facebook feed as a data set to perform a Markov Chain analysis and generate new status updates from it. In other words, it uses your status updates as a lexicon to assemble a few sentences that echo your style, interests, concerns, and topics. Written in HTML and JavaScript, this little app was created during HackPrinceton 2013, a hackathon that attracted about 500 students this past weekend (November 8-10) to create “real-world projects.” The result is this uninvasive little bot that runs on the user’s browser (client-side scripting), connects to your account with an app via the Facebook API, and posts– with your permission– the status updates it generates. The beauty of this approach is that your privacy is protected because your Facebook data and authentication information aren’t stored anywhere but in your browser and Facebook account. You can also enter a friend’s Facebook username or a celebrity’s page name and it will also generate mock status updates. Here are some examples published in the site:

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“Real_Time_”1sts!” [or: PanoptiConned Imagery From the Scene]” by Mez Breeze

 

“Memory” by Pedro Valle Javier

“Marble Springs” NOT by Deena Larsen (part 4 of 4)

Screen capture of "Marble Springs" NOT by Deena Larsen (part 4 of 4). The Marble Springs website is once again displayed with the photograph of the old mining town at the top. Text: "Credits / What we know / Thanks / Thanks, you guys! Well folks, it's been a long hard haul, but we made it. Hurrah! / Contributors to Marble Springs 2.0 / (list of names too small to read)"
Open “Marble Springs” NOT by Deena Larsen (part 4 of 4)

This hypertext poem is open by design, with a long history of inviting participation from others. When it was first published in 1993 in HyperCard format by Eastgate systems (referred to in earlier entries as Marble Springs 1.0) it offered readers the ability to contribute their own writing to the work via annotations, as described in the publisher’s site.

Marble Springs joins reading and writing as it invites each reader to rewrite and extend the work. Open or “constructive hypertexts” have long been considered one of the great promises of hypertext fiction and of the colonization of cyberspace, yet actually creating an open hypertext, one in which others can write and will wish to write, poses both technical and artistic challenges which Larsen has met head-on.

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“E-Poetry in Social Media” Coda: Alan Sondheim

Twitter Poetry by You

For the past 40 entries, I ♥ E-Poetry has been focused on poetry written using social media, and with the exception of a handful of works, the vast majority has been created with and for Twitter. In addition to Twitter fictions, three emergent genres have expanded the traditional scope of the poetic in this social network: bots, performance works, and netprovs. To explore abundant examples of each case, click on the links to tags above or visit the March and February 2013 archive (the entries begin on February 17).

I conclude this series by examining poetic works authored by you— that is, trends, memes, hashtags, and other ways in which Twitter prompts people (such as yourself) to write poetry or at least produce tweets that foreground the poetic function of language.

As a social network that values concision (with its 140 character limit), it already encourages compression that can lead to the poetic. This has encouraged many to write haiku, couplets, free verse, prose poetry, and other short kinds of traditional poetry. The folks at Twitter acknowledge this by announcing new line break functionality in their Web client with a haiku.

image

The haiku is so popular in Twitter, that you just need to visit the #haiku hashtag to discover more poetic creativity than could every be anthologized in print (while I wrote this sentence, 5 new haiku were tweeted). Line breaks are now starting to be used to create traditional and visual poetry and ascii art in Twitter.

Twitter’s hashtag functionality has been used for more focused creative prompts, leading to massive trends of artful language production. Some examples I’ve come across and enjoyed are: #lesserfilms, #fivewordtedtalks, Also worth a look are Twitter’s reports on 2012 Trends, 2011 Hot Topics, and 2010 Trends, which feature trends like: #idontunderstandwhy, and #threewordstoliveby. Follow the links to read a huge sampling of the most recent products of these language memes that spread in the imagination through this social network. For more deliberately poetic examples, read my entry on “@Tempspence and the Tempspence Poets,” and participate in the recently launched #spinepoetry, documented in this Tumblr site.

More importantly: pick a constraint, start writing, and make the title of this entry true.

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