Twitterfiction is the latest thing apparently. It consists of writing stories within the 140 character constraints of Twitter. Neil Gaiman who recently won a Hugo award for his latest children’s’ book, “The Graveyard Book” (about ghosts who adopt a toddler, orphaned after his family are brutally killed, and raise him in the graveyard….) is someone who offers these extremely short stories. Apparently it is part of an experiment with the BBC. You can join Neil at @neilhimself
So is Twitterfiction an example of digimodernism? What is digimodernism? Is it a new form of fiction? Or is it just a new way or medium of expression?
Apparently Alan Kirby, a specialist in 20th century literature and culture, is defining digimodernism as “an exploration of cultural shifts in the aftermath of postmodernism”. He has written a book entitled, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. (Continuum, 2009).
I’ve just got my hands on a copy of this book, it hasn’t even been processed yet! One of the perks of librarianship, I guess. In it, Kirby states that digimodernism is a complete break from postmodernism which arose from modernism. Digimodernism is a conceptually autonomous cultural dominant (paraphrasing here).
So what is it? Well, digimodernism is about creating new forms of text, and new relationships between authors and readers. The dominant features include ‘onwardness’ or the growing and incomplete nature of the text, it has a beginning but possibly no end; ‘haphazardness’ describes the possibility of “multiple directions” of the text meaning that it can go off in unknown directions; ‘evanescence’ in short the digimodern text “does not endure” it is difficult if not impossible to preserve or archive; the ‘reformulation and intermediation of textual roles’ which is the “radical redefinition of textual functional titles: reader, author,” etc; ‘anonymous, multiple and social authorship’; ‘electronic-digitality’ which basically means “it’s the textuality that derives from digitization” (pp52-53).
Some of these traits can probably be seen in Twitterfiction, although Kirby doesn’t mention this specifically. In the Gaiman example above, readers can tweat back or comment immediately on the ‘work’ if one can call it that. Readers can become authors themselves by adding to it, like one of those old parlour games.
So why do I mention it here? If cultural forms of text and communication are changing in such a radical way, as we know they are – we can see it all around us – what are the implications for the future of libraries and librarians? If authors are for example “multiple and anonymous” how do we catalogue that? How do we capture a digimodernist text and preserve it? Should we be doing that? Can we do it?
P.S. Neil Gaiman’s twitterfiction tweat?
“Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled and said, ‘We don’t love you anymore”