A Public Literary Twitter Role-Play

Petra Dierkes-Thrun’s research and teaching interests include the European and transatlantic fin de siècle and modernism (including literature, the visual arts, opera, dance, and film); feminist and queer theory; LGBTQ literary and cultural studies; and literary theory. Her book, Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression, was published by The University of Michigan Press in Spring 2011. Petra recently used Twitter for a role play exercise in her class on Oscar Wilde. In this piece, posted first on her own site, she discusses the effect of that exercise, and its relationship to authorship and digital writing.

A Public Literary Twitter Role-Play: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

By Petra Dierkes-Thrun

On Friday, October 26, 2012, my Stanford class tried out a new and slightly crazy idea: a one-day public literary Twitter role-play, impersonating characters from The Picture of Dorian Gray.  The idea had come to me spontaneously one morning as I was musing about what new kind of close reading activity I could develop for my “Oscar Wilde and the French Decadents” seminar at Stanford: “The Picture of Dorian Gray is such a canonical text, we should get the public involved … It should be a creative and fun group activity, combining individual analysis with readerly and writerly collaboration … Could we do this on social media?  What if we brought The Picture of Dorian Gray in dialogue with Huysmans’ A rebours and Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus (two other French novels we had been reading, which importantly influenced Wilde’s novel)?  We could have them talk back to Dorian … ‘A Day of Reckoning for Dorian Gray’! I should write this up as a Twitter role-play exercise.” Continue reading

#NoWDigi: Short Story Relay

When working with digital writing, collaboration can be both synchronous and sequential. During this activity, you’ll be co-writing parts of a short story with the group at your assigned table (if you are online, choose any table, introduce yourself to the group, and keep up), and collaborating with the larger group to complete several short stories at once.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each table will begin their short story within the appropriate Google Doc (Table 1 using the Table #1 Doc, Table 2 the Table #2 Doc, etc.);
  2. All in the group will collaborate for 10 minutes — no more, no less — to write the opening paragraph of the short story;
  3. At the end of that 10 minutes, the group will “pass” their document to the next table (e.g., Table 1 passes their #1 Doc to Table 2, Table 2 passes their #2 Doc to Table 3, etc.);
  4. For 10 minutes, the group collaborates on the short story passed to them, writing as much as they are able in the allotted time before “passing” the story to the next table.
  5. This process continues in rounds of 10 minutes until the documents return to their original owners, who then must write the conclusion.
  6. As with all things digital, the rules are emergent. Writers may alter the way the game is played where appropriate.

All “passing” is virtual, and will be facilitated by links embedded in each document. Communication and collaboration, however, are very real, and will need to be negotiated within each group, whether on-ground or hybrid.

When the stories are finished, there will be time for each group to revise, if they wish, before the works are published.

To find your table’s Google Doc, click here.

Table 1; Table 2; Table 3; Table 4; Table 5; Table 6

#NoWDigi: Hybrid Poem

To get us started with the Night of Writing Digitally, we’ll be writing a collaborative hybrid poem inside of a Google Doc. Those of you who joined us for Digital Writing Month midnight launch will recognize this exercise. But tonight, there’s one added element: the folks on the ground at Marylhurst University! There’s no telling how being within earshot of one another will affect the collaboration.

Here are the rules:

1. We must complete this poem in 30 minutes, start to finish.
2. Each contributor must contribute one word — no more, no less.
3. Each contributor must move one word — no more, no less.
4. Each contributor may contribute or remove one punctuation mark.
5. No word may be deleted, except by its author, who may revise the word at will. Continue reading

Weekend Writing: The Night of Writing Digitally

On Saturday, November 17th from 6:00pm to Midnight (Pacific time), DigiWriMo and Marylhurst University will host the Night of Writing Digitally. This hybrid event is open to anyone with a computer, an internet connection — and plenty of chutzpah and stamina — who likes to write long into the wee hours.

If you’ve enjoyed the digital writing challenges of DigiWriMo so far (remember the novel-in-a-day? Twitter vs. Zombies? the opening night collaborative poem?), then you’re going to love what we’ve dreamed up for Saturday night!

We’re taking the notion of collaborative writing one step further: throughout the night, virtual participants will have the opportunity to interact and work with people on-ground who will also be working in groups during the event. You can join a specific group and stick with them all night long, or float between virtual tables, poking your nose in wherever you like.

As well, all writing events will be synchronous. So order up some pizza, get cozy with your laptop, warn your significant others, and buckle up for the busiest night of digital writing you’ve ever seen.

Kickoff will be at 9:00pm ET / 6:00pm PT, and we’ll start with a Twitter roll call. To participate in the night’s activities, jump in, announce yourself, and start following some new friends. You’ll want to stay attentive to the DigiWriMo web site and the #digiwrimo hashtag all evening for announcements of writing exercises, photos of the on-ground event, and invitations to contribute your own photos, videos, and more.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to @slamteacher on Twitter. We can’t wait to see you Saturday night!

On Brevity

We’re pleased to present a guest post by Jay Ponteri, Director of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program at Marylhurst University. Jay’s post offers an example of the way that digital writing borrows from many sources. It serves as an excellent example of, and conversation about, authorship. It’s also super cool.

On Brevity

by Jay Ponteri

It requires you to look at it very closely, to engage it in an intimate way. It does not overwhelm you, it cannot swallow you up.

Your mind can encompass a short piece in a way it cannot grasp a novella or a novel. Like a hand closing over a stone with the word sadness painted on it.

Napoleon was a short man.

Make endless meaning using fewer words. Continue reading

Digital Writing Prompt: Twitter vs. Zombies!

Part flash-mob. Part Hunger-Games. Part Twitter-pocalypse. Part digital feeding frenzy. Part micro-MOOC. Part giant game of Twitter tag.

This weekend your word count goes rabid!

Band together your most trusted Twitter allies to defend against a virtual Zombie horde. Collect canned goods, store water, watch your hashtags, and sleep with one eye open. The rules will be deceptively simple; however, DigiWriters should plan to ply their creativity against those rules. We don’t want to change the game, but we want the game to be as beautiful as possible. Think of the game as a haiku: a carefully structured form, that nonetheless allows for flexibility, invention, and beauty. This is digital writing at its most suspenseful! Continue reading

On the Horrors and Pleasures of Counting Words

Jesse Stommel is Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities in the Division of Continuing Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison. In this post, he illuminates the reasoning behind word counts, and the ways in which counting words can be both useless and fruitful.

On the Horrors and Pleasures of Counting Words

by Jesse Stommel

Good writing is not reducible to numbers; the word count for the expression of an idea can’t always (or even usually) be determined in advance. Ideas fit all kinds of containers, some small, some large, some book-shaped, some made of 1s and 0s. When I aim for a specific word count (or ask students to aim for a specific word count), it’s not because I think there’s something intrinsically meaningful about lining up a certain number of words. It’s not because 500 words amassed are somehow better than 25. But knowing the size of a container can give us a sense for what and how we might fill it. 500 words looks different than 25 words, and 500 words feel different coming out of our mouths or fingers. For the same reason, it’s sometimes (but certainly not always) useful to pre-determine the genre for a piece of writing, the shape of the container, before sitting down to construct it. Continue reading

A Novel in a Day?

Click here to acess the Google Doc directly if the embedded collaborative novel is not appearing below.

On November 3, 2012, the bravest digital writing experiment of all time took place: over 60 writers attempted to write a 50,000-word novel, collaboratively, in one 24-hour period. Following the tremendous, if slightly surreal success of DigiWriMo’s midnight launch collaborative poem exercise, the army of DigiWriters pushed the limits of what’s possible in communal, digital writing. Are two heads (or five hundred) better than one? How many cooks is too many cooks in the kitchen? Was the adage about monkeys and typewriters finally proven right?

Photo by Victor Nuno

 24 hours. 50,000 words. Plot, characters, setting, action.
How many words will you contribute?

Continue reading

Midnight Launch Digital Poem

To get us started with Digital Writing Month, we worked up a collaborative digital poem. Poetry is especially susceptible to the digital, as semantic and lexical connections made in poetry can be reflective of the connections made between words and people on the web. In this exercise, at least 60 participants joined forces to create a work of words and connections that turned out to be unique and surprisingly lovely. And, because it was a collaborative work, everyone got to count all the poem’s words in their word count for the month.

Here were the rules:

1. We must complete this poem in one hour — from 12:00AM to 1:00AM EDT.
2. Each contributor must contribute one word — no more, no less.
3. Each contributor must move one word — no more, no less. Continue reading