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The Latest Trend in Literature? Twitter Fiction

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Some of today's most exciting new literature is being doled out 140 characters at a time. The Atlantic reports that more and more writers are publishing fiction on Twitter, embracing the challenge of the character limit and coming up with creative new storytelling techniques. 

Nick Belardes was perhaps the first person to write an entire Twitter novel. The author posted the story Small Pieces on the social media site periodically from 2008 to 2010. Since then, both new and established writers have increasingly started to create works specifically for Twitter. Some of the stories, like David Mitchell’s latest work, about computer hacker I_Bombadil, are, in part, promotional: The tale is being released to publicize his upcoming novel, Slade House, which also got its start on Twitter.

Others are just about embracing the challenges and creative opportunities the medium presents. In 2012, Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit From the Goon Squad, published Black Box on the New Yorker’s Twitter, while Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, spent several months in 2013 tweeting the story of a friendly housefly named Jeffrey. 

Pullman and Mitchell’s stories, in particular, illustrate the various styles of Twitter tales. While Mitchell’s I_Bombadil piece is written in the first person, as the “real” Tweets of a fictional character (complete with cryptic abbreviations and slang), Pullman’s is more like narrative poetry, with a bit of humor mixed in:

Traditionalists might roll their eyes, but Twitter literature is just the latest in a long tradition of literary experimentation. “It’s the role of literature to play with forms,” Melissa Terras, professor of Digital Humanities at University College of London, told The Atlantic. “With Twitter fiction, people are taking the limitations of 140 characters and doing something creative.” 

[h/t: The Atlantic]

Marshall McLuhan, the Man Who Predicted the Internet in 1962

Futurists of the 20th century were prone to some highly optimistic predictions. Theorists thought we might be extending our life spans to 150, working fewer hours, and operating private aircrafts from our homes. No one seemed to imagine we’d be communicating with smiley faces and poop emojis in place of words.

Marshall McLuhan didn’t call that either, but he did come closer than most to imagining our current technology-led environment. In 1962, the author and media theorist (who is the subject of today's Google Doodle) predicted we’d have an internet.

That was the year McLuhan, a professor of English born in Edmonton, Canada on this day in 1911, wrote a book called The Gutenberg Galaxy. In it, he observed that human history could be partitioned into four distinct chapters: The acoustic age, the literary age, the print age, and the then-emerging electronic age. McLuhan believed this new frontier would be home to what he dubbed a “global village”—a space where technology spread information to anyone and everyone.

Computers, McLuhan said, “could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization,” and offer “speedily tailored data.”

McLuhan elaborated on the idea in his 1962 book, Understanding Media, writing:

"Since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electro-magnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear."

But McLuhan didn’t concern himself solely with the advantages of a network. He cautioned that a surrender to “private manipulation” would limit the scope of our information based on what advertisers and others choose for users to see.

Marshall McLuhan died on December 31, 1980, several years before he was able to witness first-hand how his predictions were coming to fruition.

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Apple Unveils Zombie, Yoga, and Breastfeeding Emojis
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We’ve been so very patient, and now the wait is almost over. That’s right: the sandwich emoji is coming soon. Apple announced the long-overdue addition, plus others, in celebration of World Emoji Day.

This latest suite of pictograms and smileys has been in the works since autumn of 2016, when the folks at Emojipedia proposed 51 new icons, many created in response to user requests. Apple took those ideas and applied their own graphic twist, as they're wont to do.

Illustration of four smiley emojis: one with starry eyes, one with an exploding head, one vomiting, and one with rolling eyes and a lolling tongue.

An Apple press release described the T. rex, zebra, zombie, and elf emojis as “a fun way to describe situations.” We’re not sure exactly what those situations could be; clearly, we’ve been living our lives the wrong way.

In addition to the long-awaited sandwich, we’ll also be getting a pretzel, a slice of pie, and a coconut; a person wearing a headscarf; a woman breastfeeding; a guy with a hipster beard; and a dude doing yoga.

Apple has not provided a release date, although some have speculated that the new emoji will be included in iOS updates in autumn of 2017.

[h/t The Verge]


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