Sunday, 31 January 2016

Twitter vs Print Showdown: Form Wins

I can't help but reflect on some of the characteristics that Bonnie Mak described in terms of the relationship between the content and the structure and materiality of the page itself as I encounter Twitter fiction. I see this as a significant factor that distinguishes the two.

Furthermore, in seeking out Twitter fiction, the biggest obstacle for me was locating and encountering fictional material in a cogent manner. Typically, to encounter fictional narrative in a digital context alone is not so challenging; there are websites and databases that publish such material regularly. On twitter, additional task of needing to separately and discretely track different characters, narratives strung across time or a series of unique posts can be difficult. This fundamentally alters how one perceive the narratives, regardless of the substantive content or topic.

In those twitter narratives that construct a fictional world through several twitter accounts representing characters, institutions, or contextual elements, etc, there is an even greater difficulty in locating a narrative. In that sense, each discrete granularlized portion of a larger narrative is itself a small story. This is basically the point that I think Smith is making about @horse_ebooks

While collating unique narratives from across several Twitter accounts to construct the broader one may also be easier with the historical fictional characters that King mentions. The additional context creates more meaning, which itself continues its own suggestive journey, 140 characters at a time, toward a cogent narrative. Smith is pointing to @horse_ebooks faux-random beauty in this disjointed narrative form could only operate on readers with the additional context of expectations and etiquette on Twitter, different from those in the print narrative. A unique dialect in narrative is thus expressed. Twitter fiction, largely in formal ways disrupts the habits and conventions of print fiction, and it demands a new criticism, drawing from other scholarly traditions.

It got me thinking a lot about GIFs, and how they are also a new dialect in digital communication and art. and much of the growth, exploration, and literacy in that area should cross-pollinate for me.


King, R.J. (2013). "How Twitter is reshaping the future of storytelling,” FastCoExist. Retrieved from\

Mak, B. (2011). "Architectures of the page." How the page matters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

PBSoffbook. (March 2012) "Animated GIFs: The birth of a medium." Retrieved from

Smith, A. (October 2013). "Literary Parkour: @Horse_ebooks, Jonathan Franzen and the rise of Twitter fiction,” Grandland. Retrieved from


  1. Sorry about the 'Jif' thing. It always throws me. I'm always (wrongly) 'Gif'.


    "This is basically the point that I think Smith is making about @horse_ebooks"

    The other takeaway I got from @horse_ebooks was a message about authenticity. People wanted to believe the feed was robotic and became angry (?) when they found out it was not. Fiction, at heart, is a contract between author and audience that they are reading a work of imagination, not fact. @horse_ebooks presented itself as fact when, in fact, it was fiction. A larger question might be: what is the role of fiction when we are so steeped in (seemingly) authentic narrative?