Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Aleatoricism and Social Media

Often when I'm writing a post, I realize that what I had intended as a supporting passage would work better freestanding. In this case, I was revisiting an old thread about how the vast majority of even the smartest journalists and politicians on Twitter don't understand Twitter.  Part of the problem is the tendency to think that you can simply cut up something linear and structured into 140 character increments and call them “tweets.”

This is one of those cases where the medium most definitely is the message, and the medium is fast and random with people dropping in and out unpredictably and each reader having a different context based on who he or she is following and what's on his or her screens. In order to effectively use Twitter, you have to channel your inner McLuhan..

All of which got me to thinking about the way previous writers have tried to incorporate the random into their work.

Bryan Stanley Johnson (1933–1973) wrote an experimental novel The Unfortunates (1969), which was published in separate sections, consisting of a "first" and a "last" section, with the sections in between allowed to be shuffled randomly by a reader. This was an attempt to reproduce the randomness of personal memory. The overall narrative is about a sports journalist traveling to a city, to cover a football game, and recalling events and people from years earlier when he had lived in the city.
I wonder if there's an online version of The Unfortunates. It would seem to be a natural fit.

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