Storytelling for a broader audience

The notion of using twitter to tell a distributed story is very interesting and unique. As in every medium of storytelling, there are set affordances and constraints innately built within the technology. Through distributing lines of the story amongst a group of people and retweeting them in the narrative order, a story can be built and include a larger mass of people.

Teju Cole first experimented with this form of storytelling in his piece “Hafiz.” Several affordances that this medium gave Cole included the ability to reach out to a larger mass of people, having the ability to put more weight on individual sentences, and mobility. Mobility is very simple in the fact that people can read this text from anywhere in the world (with connection to the internet). The aspect of using other people and their followers to increase viewing audience is something I find unique to twitter. In dividing the story up into sentences, Cole was able to utilize the followings of the other twitter users to expand the group of people who read his story. It was remarked that some of the people who posted lines of the story had very large followings, one of which had over 1 million.

Another affordance of using twitter to distribute a story is the ability to put more weight in individual sentences. In a novel or long paragraphs of text, individual sentences tend to blend in amongst them all and while some do contribute thought provoking notions continuing the novel, many remain unanalyzed. In the twitter interface every sentence or few sentences is visually divided as well as spatially. In this way every sentence can be written in a more meaningful manner. Cole remarked that this medium felt more like writing poetry in that every few lines could be written to stand alone.

There is tremendous possibility in storytelling through social media. Cole provides the perfect example of creative misuse in utilizing twitter’s capabilities to tell a short narrative he created. However, it is very clear that steps forward could be made in having many writers work together to compile a great piece through social media, where they can establish a large presence.

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