Social Media Narrative:
Issues in Contemporary Practice

hosted by The Rutgers Camden Digital Studies Center
and Judy Malloy and
the Rutgers Camden DSC Class in Social Media Narrative:
Lineage and Contemporary Practice

Facebook, November 16 - 21, 2016

R ob Wittig's background combines Literature, Graphic Design and Digital Culture. In the early 1980s, he co-founded the legendary IN.S.OMNIA electronic bulletin board with the Surrealist-style literary and art group Invisible Seattle. IN.S.OMNIA was one of the earliest online art projects of the digital age. In 1989 he received a Fulbright grant to study the writing and graphic design of electronic literature with French philosopher Jacques Derrida in Paris. Rob's book based on that work, titled Invisible Rendezvous, was published in 1995. Alongside his creative projects, Rob worked for 15 years as a writer, designer and creative director in major publishing and graphic design firms in Chicago. In 2008 Rob's web project "Fall of the Site of Marsha" was among the first works of electronic literature to be archived in the Library of Congress. He is currently developing high-design, collaborative fiction projects in a form called netprov, networked improv narrative. In 2011 he earned an M.A. in Digital Culture from the University in Bergen, Norway (equivalent to an American M.F.A.) Rob teaches in the Departments of Art and Design and Writing Studies at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

Writing in Social Media/Crowdsourced Creativity

So... this is the Facebook page I was telling you about in my last livestream: the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers-Camden. Can you see it?

Let me just, let me move the camera.

There it is, see?

This Facebook page here is being used right now by the amazing and history-making creative force they call Judy Malloy and her lucky lucky students. Lucky students because I'm sure Judy is blowing their minds and giving them a great vision of the creative possibilities of words-in-media.

I'm flattered to be asked to participate with so many cool creators. A ' "\"Whois" Who' (airquotes) (pun intended, get it? the WWW "whois" unix command?) of soc med auths. Sounds weird when I say that out loud, doesn't it? That's one of my things these days: saying written abbrevs out loud.

It's one of those ways of pointing toward the materiality of language, I guess I'd say, with my literary scholar hat on. See? Here's my literary scholar hat. Kind of an academic Tam-'o-Shanter with the tathel alwayth getting in my mouth. Pffft! And here's me, writing my opening statement thingie for Judy's "Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice" panel. Writey write-write.

Typey type-type.

Yeah, I'm fast. I earned my living for my first ten years of experimental online writing as a typesetter.

I look pretty professional at the keyboard, don't I? Pausing to stare out at the courtyard-waiting-for-snow in a pensive pose. See?

I guess there are two things I really want to start out writing about to the folks on this Facebook page.

But before I do, here's me inelegantly wolfing down my chicken Ceasar salad from the Northern Shores Cafe right as I'm writing. Pretty professional-writerly, eh? Here's me picking up shredded cheese off my desk. Throw it in the garbage can? Naw, on the floor. Just kidding, just kidding. In this napkin. And ball it up.

And that makes three things.

The first thing is about how I adore how writing in social media constantly allows... encourages... material explorations of writing. Writing in ways we haven't before. New strategies. New orthography. New locutions. Including parts of our mental verbal flow that had been excluded from other styles. And not always because of any kind of necessary technological affordance. No, often just because of novelty. Never underestimate novelty! They never include enough Caesar dressing with these salads. Look at this! Here's me gokking on dry lettuce at the bottom of the bowl!

The second thing is the idea of crowdsourced creativity, which I've been in love with ever since the early early days of Invisible Seattle, when we built the Novel of Seattle, by Seattle by dressing as Literary Workers and walking up to people on the street and saying "Excuse me, we're building a novel, may we borrow a few of your words?"

Here's me "Bing"ing (not binge-ing, Bing-ing as in the search engine Bing, the lonely forgotten, wistful, sad, hardworking, distant second search engine Bing...Here's me doing my sad, sad puppydog face, airquotes "Pooooor Bing!") What I'm Binging is a couple of Invisible Seattle links for you.

Invisible Seattle: The Novel of Seattle, by Seattle
(crowdsourced creativity):

Invisible Seattle: Notes for a New Medium
(early online literary collaboration):

When we did the Novel of Seattle, by Seattle, we used to say: "We write novels the way they used to build cathedrals." The whole community volunteering skills toward this one, towering, breathtaking total THING in the middle of town that you could see on the horizon for a whole day as you walked to medieval Paris.

Crowdsourced creativity is what I still find super-exciting every day when Mark Marino and the Featured Players (friends around the world) and our beloved Players (whom we don't know yet) do netprov projects!

Meanwhile Netprov Studio -- Play a character, join a story!

Instead of being the airquotes "authors" and saying look at me, look at me, look at me -- we have the opportunity to LISTEN in all caps to people and say how can we help support your creativity? Can we do the boring part of structuring a big-picture narrative so that you can do the fun part -- the roleplaying, cracking people up, cracking yourself up, learning-about-the-world-by-mimicking-it part? Can we create something where we write WITH people, side-by-side?

I used to want to be a great writer, now I want to be a great reader, a great listener, a great encourager.

Where's my napkin?

Have I had that on my chin this whole time?

The third thing is an airquote "novelist's notebook" observation I've been making lately about how many creators, like me, do their work self-funded in the margins of their money-earning jobs. This cramming in creative work late at night early in the morning IS the creative locus of the 20-teens. I'm talking to YOU, filmmakers of the future!
O, ye filmme makers of ye future!
Remember ye that creative social media art folk of our ilk and time did not so much lounge in houses of coffee having earnest TV-show-style conversations nor sprawl across their designerly couches in jeans and t-shirts striking Reality-TV unposed poses, but rather they hunched over laptops at odd hours in guilty neglect of their paid duties and to the consternation of loved ones, spilling Caesar salad on their keyboards.... and airquotes snuck their creative work in stolen time.

So that's what I'm writing to these people's Facebook at Rutgers-Camden. Thanks for watching!

Uh-oh my camera is running out of

Transcript of Rob Wittig's conversation
on Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice

Panel Participants

Judith Adele
(Ada Radius)
- Avatar Repertory Theater

James J. Brown, Jr.
Social Media Harassment

Jay Bushman
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Robert Emmons

Joy Garnett

Dene Grigar
The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project

Matt Held
Facebook Paintings

Antoinette LaFarge
Mixed Reality Performance

Deena Larsen
Marble Springs Wiki

Mark Marino

Cathy Marshall
Who owns social media content?

Chris Rodley
The Magic Realism Bot

Chindu Sreedharan

Katrin Tiidenberg
Identity on Tumblr

Marco Williams
The Migrant Trail

Rob Wittig - Netprov

Alice Wong

Rutgers Camden DSC
Class in Social Media Narrative

Judy Malloy