Compared to some of the other storytelling media we’ve looked at so far, we haven’t been able to spend nearly as much time discussing Twitter and some of the more experimental storytelling that has taken place on that platform. To supplement this, I ended up Googling “twitter narrative” and reading a few of the articles that popped up, which were primarily interviews with artists like the one we read with Teju Cole. It took a little while to wade through the results looking for pages that were relevant, but I eventually stumbled across an old 2010 interview with Peggy Nelson, a “new media artist who has spent the last several years doing digital and virtual storytelling”. I’d recommend checking it out if you have the time, even if you don’t get around to viewing her work.
Peggy Nelson has worked with Twitter as well as with digital locative media, animation, and even PowerPoint. She describes herself as a new media artist “with a focus on episodic, decentralized storytelling”. Although we didn’t explicitly use the word “episodic” in our discussion of Teju Cole’s Twitter fiction, we touched on this idea when we discussed the way each sentence Cole tweeted was isolated and exposed to a much greater extent than a sentence in a traditional short story would have been. Each tweet that makes up a larger narrative like this can be seen as a micro-episode of a story. This is especially true for those experiencing a Twitter narrative in real time.
About halfway through, the interviewer asked about Peggy’s work with new and nontraditional storytelling media.
“When I joined Twitter, I realized that the people who use it are checking it pretty consistently throughout the day. So I want to make an art project specifically for this medium that these people are checking anyway. I wasn’t thinking, “Okay, no one is reading The Atlantic anymore, so I’m going to substitute with something like this.” I was thinking, “Okay, people are using this a lot. It’s creeping up to be a bigger part of their day and more of what they’re thinking about.” So I want to put art in there as well […]”
By the time I was halfway through reading this paragraph, little blog post sirens were going off in my head. In just a few sentences, she was able to put into words something that I had been struggling with for most of the semester. The point she makes here is that “traditional” storytelling in, say, a newspaper or a poetry anthology is not mutually exclusive from “nontraditional” storytelling like Twitter fiction or mobile locative media. These new methods of telling stories are ways to bring narrative and art into activities we already spend our time doing, not necessarily to replace other media. If you’re going to spend five minutes on the toilet scrolling through your timeline anyway, why not experience narrative through a new lens?
So while I believe that our critiques of newer storytelling media (like 7Scenes or The Martian: Bring Him Home) are absolutely legitimate, I’m not sure how valuable it is to compare them to their traditional media counterparts. Instead, it might be more useful to compare mobile apps to other mobile apps and the way each of those experiences navigates the affordances and constraints of a mobile device.