“@everyword” by Allison Parrish

Screen capture of the "@everyword" twitter account created by Adam Parrish. Text "Twittering every word in the English language. Task will complete in 2013. Tweet 1: skirling. Tweet 2: skirl"
Open “@everyword” by Allison Parrish

This bot has been on deceptively simple mission since it was launched in 2007: it is tweeting the English language, one word every 30 minutes, in alphabetical order. This work of conceptual poetry is delightfully absurd because it claims to be “twittering every word” and even offers a termination date in which such a project would be complete— when even the concept of what constitutes the English language is subject to debate, even if it wasn’t changing on a daily basis. To make such a feat even possible (unless you’re Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged) requires setting constraints—such as a choice of dictionary— though it is to Parrish’s credit that she doesn’t disclose the source, because it enhances the project’s conceptual claim.

Part of the interest of this work is how it draws attention to individual words by tweeting them at 30 minute intervals. If this was tweeting a word every other minute (like Kazemi’s Metaphor-a-Minute!), it wouldn’t leave much space for other tweets in its followers’ stream to recontextualize them, nor the time to reflect upon them. Here’s an example:

These tweets, sent independently within the space of a minute are juxtaposed in my Twitter stream and prompt me to consider their content in relation to each other. Will a skirmish follow after news of George Online’s tweet gets out? Is this spending cut a skirmish in the context of a war on higher education? There is conflict implied in the following (actually preceding) tweet from Whitney Trettien, as well.

Was this intended? Not directly, but it was to broadcast these words in Twitter to allow those who wish to tune in to its signal to make it part of their reading experience. Words are not inert: they react with whatever they come in contact with and that reaction occurs in human bodies, brains, and minds.

Parrish is very aware of the power of context, as she explains well in an interview and in a terrific blog posting, complete with examples of other ways of reading @everyword. Even better, she published a version of the source code for others to study, remix, and hopefully create new bots based on similar functionality.

And if this all seems too post-post-modern, technologically deterministic, and uncreative to those with more traditional poetic sensibilities, I leave you with words of wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson in “The Poet:”

We are far from having exhausted the significance of the few symbols we use. We can come to use them yet with a terrible simplicity. It does not need that a poem should be long. Every word was once a poem. Every new relation is a new word.

And @everyword reminds us of this.

June 6, 2014 update

 everyword @everyword Twittering every word in the English language. Task will complete in 2014. decontextualize.com
@everyword on its last night?

As this bot nears the completion of its mission today (June 6, 2014) it is worth noting how this project’s audience has grown in the year and two months since I wrote my original entry. Everyword is one of Twitter’s oldest bots, and has been indexing Twitter from 2007 to 2014, as proposed during the Bot Summit organized by Darius Kazemi on November 25, 2013 (direct link). At the time, Parrish hadn’t decided what to do when it ended and was considering several possibilities. As suggested by her recent interview in The Guardian, it seems like @everyword is going to stop when it reaches the end of the alphabet tomorrow. (Update: It will rest briefly and restart: for more details, read Allison Parrish’s post.)

In any case, I hope Parrish requests and publishes the Twitter archive. The reasons are the same as discussed in my revisiting of Joshua Strebel’s Willy Shakes bot (currently in its third round tweeting William Shakespeare’s complete works).

I bet will end tonight with “Zzz” which would be appropriate, given that it suggests a sleep rather than shutdown operation.

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