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What piques me most about the Twitter phenomenon (not this blog’s new subject, I swear) is precisely what I think is considered most harmless and cool about it: it’s got all the advantages of regular communication, plus all the fun of communicating using only 140 characters! Or, as MoDo tells the inventors of Twitter, against whom I have nothing, this morning, “You say the brevity of Twitter enhances creativity.” The kind of creativity involved, however, strikes me as tautological: one’s creativity is enhanced more or less only to the extent that one is limited by the form. By the same measure, playing piano with one’s hands tied behind one’s back ‘enhances creativity’ to the extent that you can’t use your hands to play. Twitter is no more or less creativity-enhancing than the (very) brief aphorism. I do like aphorisms; obviously I, as an Early Adopter, much prefer browsing Twitter to hearing someone tickling the keys with their nose and ears. The point is not that Twitter is a degenerate way of communicating, but that the Twitter phenomenon seems to be driven so strongly by the sheer novelty imposed by its form, which is actually not so tremendously novel after all. What’s novel is the party thrown around the form.

This is to be contrasted against other creativity-enhancing impositions of form (paging Miss Rittelmeyer), like the sonnet. How do we assess the replacement of the sonnet (for example) with the 140 character limit as a celebrated formal communicative constraint? Twitter-sized answer: sonnets not very democratic, 140 character limits yes. This is a plausible answer — not everyone is invited to the sonnet party.  Tweeting is a game everyone can play, while sonnetting is not. But it needn’t be this way. Twitter-sized warning about admired formal constraints: did the sonnet really die out because it wasn’t democratic enough? Or because it became — too democratic?

More on: Media, Pop

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