This work is inspired by the real-time events triggered by a fatal shooting incident in MIT and a manhunt for suspects allegedly involved in the Boston Marathon bombings as reported through social media, particularly Twitter. (Here’s a link describing the situation as I write this entry, followed by a snapshot of the #Watertown hashtag in Twitter. It is 6:00 am EST).Part of the story of these horrifying events is how this social network is providing thousands of human observers, reporters, and analysts— all responding much faster than all the other news media— all seeking to contribute information and opinions. And this offers massive amounts of data— much of it useless for the purposes of a police investigation— but important nonetheless. Moments like this give us a way into the collective psyche, as gathered in millions of tweets— a rich dataset that will surely be studied by those with the financial and data-mining means to access the archives. But as this happens live and we can access the live tweets and hashtag, it is up to us to reflect upon what we read, as Mez Breeze has done with this work.
Taking a sample of six tweets from a 16-minute period during the early moments of the event, she focuses on some of the “firsts,” commenting with mezangelle writing in brackets after each tweet to point out an alarming trajectory of public sentiment developing in such a short time. The trend seems to begin quite innocently with factual passing along of information, to analysis and language representation of the photo, to “gamification of criminal activity on a MMO scale” (links added), to fantastically absurd speculation, all leading to violence and a panoptic society with a lynchmob mentality. As an experienced writer and artist of digital networks, Mez has used her acumen to find a kind of ideological snowball poem in the Twitter stream, expressing her sense of alarm between the lines, brackets, and parentheses.
During times of crisis, when our access to massive communication networks allow us to share information and express our opinions on public spaces, we should experience art as a means for self-reflection. Breeze’s piece, minimalistically built from tweets and a Livejournal entry, comes to us at a speed appropriate for the moment— as do these words of wisdom by William Shakespeare, as tweeted during these events by the @IAM_SHAKESPEARE bot.