This blog is a continuation of the 1812now blog that I started on January 1 2012 to explore events two hundred years ago to the day. As I noted in the earlier blog.
The initial idea was mad: to tweet about what transpired every second, minute, hour and day as it happened some two hundred years ago in 1812. A tweeted remembrance of some universal memory, like some (his)story of Borges. This was an ambition that would have made Icarus blush but inspired this more modest but still quite mad undertaking. I will attempt to tweet each day, over a period of a year, events from two hundred years ago as they happened in 1812 [now 1816] to the day. Writing this I am aware of the utter paltriness of what is being attempted: to capture some discarded ruins, curios, a dimly recorded or understood sense of things that long ago vanished. Strangely, to do so in 140 characters, highlights the randomness, the subjectivity and the impossibility of the undertaking, which is itself useful.
Wondering if you could provide any advice – I want to create a twitter and/or facebook event for the 199th of Lundy’s Lane (would appreciate some retweets as well, etc…), however wondering if you advice for doing such things. I want to do a bit of a sequential recreation of the event, but I have some fear that some of the posting will be too long for twitter (war losses claims, etc…). Any insights or thoughts would be appreciated.
Clark Bernat, Manager, Niagara Falls Museums
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
My points about the use of Twitter are based on my own peculiar preferences, so they may not be of general application.
In using twitter you have to start with the obvious. 140 characters is a limitation but only if you have not thought through what you want to convey. You need to use the limitation to try and compress your idea, description or image to its most basic elements. Tweeting is more like poetry than prose. You should view 140 characters as a rich bounty with each character to be used only if necessary. Every empty space that you leave from your 140 allotment is a treasure that you bequeath to your followers.
If you are re enacting a historical event you have to appreciate the artificiality of what you are doing. Even it if is done on the day of when something happened, it is never to the hour, minute or second. It is a limited description where you try to capture a distant echo of something that is for the most part lost and unrecoverable. Historical records, such as letters or memoirs, do help you to recover a sense of that echo from the past. You will have to edit for space but these documents convey in concrete ways the past in its strangeness and familiarity. The telling detail, will be more appreciated in a tweet than a tweet that is overwhelming with details. I usually find, that followers do not appreciate multiple tweets that follow one after the other too closely. I certainly don’t, though I have been guilty of this on more than one occasion.
That said, each tweet should be self sufficient. It should be capable of standing alone even if it is part of a series of tweets. It should contain all the information, contrast or idea that you are seeking to convey. This is the case even when you are telling a story. On a practical basis, you should not cram too much information into a tweet. A tweet simply cannot bear it. It will become unintelligible or even worse boring. If you have two interesting, but long ideas or descriptions, you may want to separate them or delete one. If your idea, description or image cannot be compressed then do not tweet it. You need another medium, which is why it may be necessary to use blog posts, other images. Fortunately, you can use these in conjunction with the tweet. In some cases they are necessary.
This brings me to my next point: tweets are part of a conversation. Like any conversation there are aspects that are assumed or must be known to give meaning or interest to what you are trying to communicate. Context is very important even when you are playing with that context. Hashtags are useful to provide some context but only if they are well known such as #Warof1812. Otherwise, I find – and this may be a personal bias – they look clunky. I like to start with a blog post, which contains all the information, description and context to make the tweet understandable. You then have the freedom to use the tweet to convey only the most interesting point, idea, image or thought. You can also then experiment with using images, maps or snippets of letters to convey the mood and the details.
I am not sure how much the above helps. It is also important to understand that every rule can be broken, but you should be conscious of breaking the rule. I wish you luck with your project. If there is anything else I can do let me know.
Ambitious? I’ll say! Thank you very much for following First Night Design!