Social Media Narrative:
Issues in Contemporary Practice

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

Facebook, November 16 - 21, 2016


This annotated resource list, that augments the Rutgers Camden DSC panel on Social Media Narrative, provides resources in the field of contemporary social media-based creative writing, literary art, graphic narrative, and performance -- with a focus on syllabus-relevant works and books. Currently two sections are available: #works and #books. The section on #papers is in progress.

Perhaps it is the way we have been accustomed to experience content on social media, but although these works span different genres, precisely categorizing them is problematical. Therefore, in this resource, the #works are listed alphabetically.
- Judy Malloy


J udith Adele and Iain McCracken
Avatar Repertory Theater
Platform: Second Life, Kitely, and the OpenSim virtual world grids)

Founded in 2008 by Judith Adele (Ada Radius in virtual worlds) and Iain McCracken (Sodovan Torok in Second Life), Avatar Repertory Theater produces immersive virtual live performances in Second Life, Kitely, and the OpenSim virtual world grids -- with a core repertoire of Shakespeare performed on virtual stages that emulate Renaissance theaters -- as well as contemporary work, such as Howard Barker's 13 Objects. Avatar Repertory Theater is also currently involved in open sim software development and in encouraging virtual world development, creative collaboration, and arts education.

In her statement for Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice, Judith Adele describes the virtual sets for recent performances, beginning with Shakespeare's The Tempest:

"...where we put the audience on floating crates and kegs in a steampunk shipwreck and where the boatswain transformed into a flying dragon to become Prospero. Several of our audience arrived as dragons for that one and watched from in the water near the ship. We also produced Howard Barker's "13 Objects" for the Barker 21for21 festival, in a grunge Slum City installation using the artwork of Arcadia Asylum, and adaptations of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass", where the audience found themselves falling down the rabbit hole, swimming in the sea of tears, on overstuffed sofas in a Victorian parlor overrun with tiny talking chess pieces, or sharing a moving train with talking insects and animals."

resource: Avatar Repertory Theater pages, Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice, Rutgers Camden DSC Facebook-based panel, November 16 - 21, 2016

M an Bartlett
Platform: Twitter
Performance as an authoring component

"Thursday, Jan 7 at 6pm, I will attempt to spend 24 hours in Best Buy, Union Square, without making a purchase."

"I will only eat or drink what is provided to me by those who come to visit the 'performance.'"

"I will remain thoughtfully engaged in the products on sale and the services offered."

Bartlett tweeted his January 7, 2010 Union Square Best Buy experience throughout the 24 hours of this pop- endurance/duration performance. Tweets centered on the experience of not buying.

"#BestNonBuy security guard to me: 'do you need help?' me: 'no, just sort of browsing for now.'"

resource: Hrag Vartanian, "When Shopping, Not Buying, Becomes Art", hyperallergic, January 8, 2010

S andra Cisneros
Platform: Instagram
Poet/writer Sandra Cisneros whose work includes The House on Mango Street, creates an Instagram page that with images and words explores her community, her life. She visits Centro de Artes Gallery in San Antonio see the work of her friend Puerto Rican artist Angel Rodriguez-Diaz; she appears between images of/by Freda Kahlo at the Dallas Museum of art; readers contribute pictures of her books in various settings; she recollects her words:

"I always tell people that I became a writer because my mother took me to the library. I wanted to see my name in the card catalog."

T eju Cole
Platform: Twitter
Situationally told narrative
To simulate the experience of a passersby witnessing a man in the throes of a heart attack, Teju Cole first wrote Hafiz in a series of 31 tweet sized texts. He then sent the texts to friends, asking them to tweet them to their followers. The resulting social media-based narrative effectively recreates traumatic experience.

"He gave no indication of being aware of our presence. He was tranquil, wordless. The tears were falling from his eyes."

resource: Keira Rathbone, "The Boundary-Pushing Novelist Who’s Made Twitter His New Medium", Wired 7:22, 2014.

J eff Crouse and Stephanie Rothenberg
Invisible Threads
Platform: Second Life; Mixed reality performance installation
resource: artists' documentation:

"...The project explores the growing intersection between labor, emerging virtual economies and real life commodities through the creation of a designer jeans sweatshop in the online, 3-dimensional world of Second Life (SL). Simulating a real life manufacturing facility that includes hiring Second Life 'workers' to produce real world jeans sold for profit, the project provides an insider's view into current modes of global, telematic production.

...In the physical space, a retail kiosk equipped with dressing. As real world customers watch their jeans move down the assembly line, the real lives behind the avatar 'workers' stationed at industrial machines begin to emerge..."

J oseph DeLappe
The Salt Satyagraha Online: Gandhi's March to Dandi in Second Life
Platform: Second Life
Performance as an authoring component
In 2008, on a treadmill at Eyebeam in New York City, Joseph DeLappe walked the 240 miles that Gandhi walked in a protest against the British salt tax against India. As he walked on the treadmill, his actions controlled the forward motion of his avatar Gandhi in Second Life. In the course of the journey, other online avatars interacted with Gandhi's avatar. Combining classic performative endurance action and activist social media narrative, the work involved audiences on different levels, some at Eyebeam, some in Second Life.

resource: Joseph DeLappe, project page for Reenactment: The Salt Satyagraha Online

"A conversation in SL about the walk…

March 20, 2008 by delappe

This is a conversation with E9590 Gears who has walked with me now twice over the past few days.

[19:23] E9590 Gears: Why do you walk?
[19:24] E9590 Gears: Whats its purpose whats its importance, to walk
[19:24] E9590 Gears: for weeks
[19:24] E9590 Gears: why?
[19:26] MGandhi Chakrabarti: it is in the doing, it is the physical act of walking on my treadmill – I am earning the SL experience rather than just getting it. Gandhi believed that wealth without labor to be meaningless."

J ennifer Egan
"Black Box"
Platform: Twitter
Print publication as an authoring component
The New Yorker, June 4 & 11, 2012

"Posing as a beauty means not reading what you would like to read on a rocky shore in the South of France."

Jennifer Egan wrote "Black Box" in a gridded notebook -- conforming to the 140-character constraint but creating the work offline. Before Black Box was published in The New Yorker in June 2012, The New Yorker set the work more clearly in the context of Twitter narrative by tweeting the whole to its followers.

"Black Box" is an extraordinary use of the constraints of Twitter to emulate premises of the set-in-the-future narrative:

"Return to your body carefully, as if you were reentering your home after a hurricane."

R obert Emmons Jr.
From February to August of 2010, Robert Emmons Jr. created 52 short documentaries. Twice a week, on YouTube he posted a new work on this MINICONCEPTDOCS series. Emmons followed his guidelines of creating 10 seconds to 10 minutes video renderings of a randomly generated single concept, and in the process experimented with, in his words: "what the documentary form can be. Some entries may be still images, some loose video montages, others may be a single interview, and so on...":

"'Simultaneity' as realized in documentary form."

"Simultaneity is a concept I have explored many times in my filmmaking. I have always enjoyed using multiple frames within the "screen frame", but what I enjoy even more is multiple cameras capturing an event simultaneously.

In this MINICONCEPTDOC we see Stephen and myself beginning by filming each other, film each other, until eventually we just film one another. Again, I find the most striking moments are those converging, or overlapping realities. Finally, we both rest in frame to face the gaze of our audience!"

"Another mini lesson in film history. This is a peek at my personal optical toy collection."

"Today's topic spans a history of baseball that runs from the 19th century to my own childhood to the brawls on the field today. I hope it's not a stretch and works on some level."

"a comic book read in real time"

"I'm happy. I got to talk about one of my favorite activities: reading comics. And, I got to shoot this MCD on a twenty year old VHS camcorder!"

"For today's MCD, STROLL, luck was my friend. I was on my way to the mall and I happened upon quite a site. I was not the only passerby struck by the happening and people with cell phones in hand clamored to capture the event."

"This was a fun but strange MCD to create. With FIRST I pondered considerably. After some intense thought about where to go with it, I walked straight to my media storage cabinet, opened the first drawer, and captured the first second of footage that played. I strung it all together in the montage..."

N eil Gaiman
Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry
On Twitter in 2009, Neil Gaiman began a crowd-sourced, destined-for-audio fiction with an ambiguous potentially magic-realism infused tweet:

"Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled, and said, "We don't love you anymore."

resources: Neil Gaiman, Katherine Kellgren, and The Twitterverse, Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry. Blackstone Audio, 2010:

"From mystical blue roses to enchanted mirrors to pesky puppets, this classic fable was born from the collective creativity of more than one hundred contributors via the social network in a groundbreaking literary experiment. Together, virtual strangers crafted a rollicking story of a young girl's journey with love, forgiveness, and acceptance."

Goodreads reviews: Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry by Neil Gaiman; Narrator: Katherine Kellgren

J oy Garnett
Platforms: Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook
Performance as an authoring component
In 2011, an eviction notice caused artist Joy Garnett to consider the difficulties of moving or storing her 15-year collection of books. She decided to give them away. During the course of three weeks, she sorted her book collection into thematic piles. Three or four times a day, she carried piles of books to locations around New York City. As they lay on sidewalks and stairwells, she photographed the books and posted their location and the photographs to Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook until interested readers took them all to new homes.

resource: Joy Garnett's page, Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice, Rutgers Camden DSC Facebook-based panel, November 16 - 21, 2016. In her statement for Social Media Narrative, she writes:

"...Lost Library was a project that instantaneously shared, documented, and enacted the age-old act of sharing books while pointing to our contemporary quandary over sharing in a world where, increasingly, licensing supplants ownership, and digital files replace analogue objects. Lost Library comprises both the advantages and drawbacks of immateriality, and asks us to consider what is lost as we forgo the heft of so much printed matter."

D ene Grigar
The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project
Platform: Twitter

resources: Dene Grigar's page, Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice, Rutgers Camden DSC Facebook-based panel, November 16 - 21, 2016.
Dene Grigar, On the Art of Producing a Phenomenally Short Fiction Collection over the Net using Twitter: The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project", content | code | process:

"The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project centers on a collection of 24 stories about life in an American city in the 21st Century and involves 140 characters or less delivered -- that is, 'tweeted' -- on Twitter over a 24 hr. period. The launch date of the project was Friday, August 21, 2009 beginning 12 AM PST. Each hour until 11 PM, I posted one story, a method of delivery I chose so that others from other parts of the world who wished to participate could do so at a time convenient for them. These 'participants' were encouraged to do more than simply read and respond to my work; they were actually invited to tweet their own stories. During the 24 hours of the project as I posted my stories, I also monitored and collected the participants' stories, adding them to the Project Blog. The project resulted in what can be considered an international anthology of micro-fiction comprised of over 85 stories and submitted by over 25 participants from five countries. In this essay, I address assumptions and viewpoints surrounding the art of producing a phenomenally short fiction collection over the net using Twitter."

As noted in the content I code| process (formerly Authoring software) introduction to this work:

"The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project combines the jazz energy of real-time creation of online art and micro-literature with elements of poetic narrative and locality. And as the author camps by her computer, entering her own narratives, inspiring contributions to the work, The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project captures the imagination of the contemporary generation of users of social media."

M att Held
Facebook Paintings
In 2008, then Brooklyn-based artist Matt Held set up the Facebook page "I'll have my Facebook portrait painted by Matt Held". The much greater than expected response resulted in three years of painting of portraits of based on the images with which users of Facebook represented themselves. The resulting portraits are remarkable for their reflection of the variety and interest of user representation on social media.

resource: Matt Held's pages, Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice, Rutgers Camden DSC Facebook-based panel, November 16 - 21, 2016:

"With the development of social networking sites, I've developed an interest in how people take simple or complex snapshots of themselves, post them to their page as a representation of who they are and what they want people to see. It is an interesting form of control and, in a way, self-preservation.

At the time, Facebook was fairly new to the general public as it had previously been limited to universities. I was fascinated with this concept of individualism through digital representation and the spread of democratization aided by social networking and began painting portraits as a means to exam that. My original goal was to paint 200 portraits (I made it to 75) and formed a group that connected me to individuals around the globe."

I Am Korean American
Platform: blog
With a submission's policy that encourages writing by Korean Americans, I am a Korean American has created an impressive selection of stories of the lives of Korean Americans from many walks of life.

For instance, on the page written by poet Mary-Kim Arnold, a Korean adoptee, she writes of her trip to the country of her birth:

"Perhaps it does not matter. Perhaps it is not the trip itself that matters, or the dusty earth, or the way the sunlight glistened on the blue roof of the country schoolhouse in the late morning, or the stones I warmed in my hands before placing them on a pile and saying a silent prayer for the ancestors I would never know. Perhaps the trip is just as simple as a dot placed on the map of my life, one moment, indistinguishable from the thousands of other moments that together, compose a life."

And on his I am a Korean American page, Choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess, who founded and directs the Washington, DC-based Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company, writes about how his Korean American heritage is often a source of inspiration for his choreography, which looks at identity and bridges cultures in terms of both historical events and personal stories.

M iranda July
Platform: Instagram
Utilizing both images and text to describe our lives
director, actor, writer, performance artist Miranda July brings her community into her life in an informal and always interesting Instagram page, where images are well documented with accompanying text:

"Layla Ali worked with Ms Johnson's 5th grade class @ksmoca today. This is what happens when you put a contemporary art museum in a public elementary school."

"With Maren Ade, director of Toni Erdman, the only narrative movie directed by a woman nominated this year. We met when our first movies premiered at Sundance; couldn't be more proud of her. Always in a suit, so cool."

"When I was twenty-one I started an underground network for women and girls making movies. For more than ten years women sent their movies to Joanie 4 Jackie (aka Big Miss Moviola) and received a “Chainletter” tape in return — their movie compiled with nine others. In a pre-YouTube world, this was one way we could see each other’s work and know we weren’t alone..."

Visit Miranda July's Instagram site to find out more, including how The Getty Research Institute acquired the complete Joanie 4 Jackie archives.

L Ainundacion: Creative Director: Mark C. Marino
The LA Flood
Platform: Google Maps
Locative collaborative narrative

resources: Leonardo Flores, "The LA Flood Project", I heart E-Poetry, September 12, 2012

"The city’s boundaries aren't the only things spilled over in this flood of multimedia texts, but also those of literature because this work uses language in as diversely as it uses online services. To name a few leading formats, this work is in audio, video, text, prose, verse, geotags, Twitter, Google Maps, and more. The recorded voices of flood survivors sometimes play like radio talk show hosts, interview subjects, oral histories, or dramatic monologues..."

Rob Wittig and Mark C. Marino, Meanwhile...Netprov Studio

D eena Larsen
Marble Springs 3.0
Platform: Wiki
Translating a HyperCard work to a wiki

Deena Larsen's hypertext, Marble Springs, about the lives of women in a Colorado mining town, was published by Eastgate Systems in 1993. In 2011, she migrated the narrative framework for the hyperfictional Gold rush town, Marble Springs to a Wikidot version, Marble Springs 3.0. In this version, readers can navigate a map of the town, explore the characters of the inhabitants, and participate themselves in the narrative archeology of a once forgotten town.

resource: Deena Larsen, Marble Springs 3.0 ", content | code | process:

"Social media networks today identify subsets. Other taxonomies include specifying friends or work or relationship status. Social networks such as Facebook stress family or friend relationships and others such as LinkedIn focus on professional relationships. (and may subdivide these into companies or colleagues) Thus, we have begun to categorize relationships in far different ways than those depicted in Marble Springs 3.0. So, I recreated every link on every character connections card to conform to a category. I renamed the character connection cards to "communities" to better reflect these social networks. "

T he Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Hank Green and Bernie Su, Producers
Jay Bushman, Transmedia Producer
Platform: YouTube, transmedia

Created and produced by Hank Green and Bernie Su, using homespun vlogging both as a medium and as content, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD) is the first YouTube-distributed series to win a Primetime Emmy Award (for Outstanding Achievement in Original Interactive Content).

LBD changes the British countryside and manners-dominated look and feel of many film portrayals of Pride and Prejudice into selfie-dominated screens, where, closeted in her bedroom in the Bennet home, Lizzie, a graduate student, relates the incidents in her life.

The series plays to the viral Marshall McLuhan quote" "The medium is the message". And, as Ricky Collins -- in LBD, a salesman-suited principal in a web video company -- mansplains to Lizzie "The key to success is content, content"; Mr Darcy is the aloof manager of Pemberley Digital. Bing Lee is studying to be a doctor.

In addition to the series base of 100 or so short episodes on YouTube, LBD sprawled across 35 accounts on a dozen platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest. And the interactive role of the audience was an integral part of the production.

resource: Jay Bushman's pages, Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice, Rutgers Camden DSC Facebook-based panel, November 16 - 21, 2016

L auren McCarthy
Platform: Digital Social Object
The Conversacube is a small box with a miniature screen and an embedded microphone. When placed in the center of a table, it prompts the people surrounding it with ideas for conversation.

resource: Lauren McCarthy, Conversacube:

"The intent is to create a tool that on one hand, explores the idea of an actual commercial product that uses technology to improve interactions, and on the other hand, is critical of our dependence on technology and choreographed social routines, hinting at a dystopic future where we sacrifice our autonomy to avoid having to face anything uncomfortable. The Conversacube asks users to consider in which of these directions we’re heading. Or is it both? Are we consciously aware of the future we’re building with all of our technological innovation? Are there ways we can use technology to expand our awareness and move toward more connected social relationships?"

In the persona of a market researcher, Lauren McCarthy travels to places, such as subway stops and cafes, and elicits user feedback on the product. The goal of the performance is/was, she writes, " create a situation where the public participants were not sure whether this is a serious product or an art piece, hopefully inspiring thoughts about the implications and potential of such a device or related technologies."

K athy McTavish and Sheila Packa
Mill City Requiem Twitterbot
Platform: Twitter
In the weeks preceding Kathy McTavish's Mill City Requiem, a twitterbot, with words by Sheila Packa and Kathy McTavish, played in the Twitter stream of followers. Like the river, it ran continuously and very fast.

Mill City Requiem, was a multi-channel sound environment with live-generated projections cast on the walls of the Mill City Museum, which is situated on the banks of the Mississippi. A cello played throughout the night of June 13, while visitors connected via a mobile interface and wrote to the projections.

resource: Northern Spark's web archives for Mill City Requiem

D avid Mitchell
Platform: Twitter
Creating magic-realism tinged suspense with short bursts of narrative, in The Right Sort, Mitchell used Twitter's 140-character constraint to convey an ordered/disordered experience of valium-induced hallucination. The work is notable for its unusual-on-Twitter narrative detail, for instance how the garden intrudes on the narrative:

"'Have a plum,' says Jonah, picking a fruit from the tree. Its perfumed slushy flesh tastes of August mornings."

"All the purple foxgloves sway like something's there. There isn’t. Jonah asks, 'Is it anything to do with those scars?'"

and for its history of pre-composition, initial performative story-telling to a Twitter audience, sequential narrative order in the resulting Twitter home page, and expanded and changed narrative in the print short story, Slade House.

resources, David Mitchell, RIGHT SORT, Septre Books, 2014
Jill Krasny, "Talking to David Mitchell About Twitter, Ghosts, and His New Novel Slade House" Esquire, October 23, 2015.

M useums on Instagram:
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
Platform: Instagram
The Instagram pages hosted by the Asian Art Museum provide diverse, interesting documentation of Asian art and cultures -- as if windows were opened to Rupy Tut's work with contemporary versions of miniature paintings; Chinese artist Xu Tan's Social Botany, which explores the social meanings of plants; Shazia Sikander's layered images from Indian and Persian painting; stories of Japanese incarceration during World War II and their contemporary meaning, such as Emiko Omori's video poem, "When Rabbit Left the Moon"; Composer Bright Sheng's music from "Dream of the Red Chamber", among many others. For artists and scholars, as well as for visitors to the museum, the Asian Art Museum's Instagram pages are enticing entryways to Asian and Asian American culture, and there is a community look and feel to this site, which makes the images and words as much about community outreach as they are about museum promotion.

Jeff Nunokawa
Facebook essays
Platform: Facebook
Print publication as an authoring component
Princeton English professor Jeff Nunokawa's literate essays have been posted early every morning on Facebook since 2007. Combining his extensive knowledge of English literature with observations about contemporary life and details of his own life and milieu, Nunokawa's captivating words, written every day in the early morning, continue to provide an extraordinary example of the promise of the social media-based essay.

On Facebook the morning of this writing, his essays included "How to say everything about someone, or face the fact that you can't." which begins with a quote from Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature and then, from the iconography of the identity-betraying scar on Odysseus leg, leads to an essay on the difficulties of commemorating arrivals and departures.

On Facebook this morning: a quote From Boswell on "arduous" and "presumptuous" task of writing the Life of Johnson leads into an essay on our todo list-ordered lives and the process of remembering or not remembering what was on them or what should have been on them.

resources: Jeff Nunokawa, note book, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015

In his introduction to note book, the Princeton University Press book that contains a vast sampling of his potent words on life and literature, Nunokawa writes that:

"... however removed they may seem from them, these are Essays in Criticism -- in some familiar, though sometimes forgotten, old- and new-fashioned sense. The great ancestors of this little adventure in the essay form (Montaigne, Bacon, Johnson, De Quincey, Benjamin, Barthes, inter alia) always sought through their words to honor by illuminating the words of others: words that enshrine and encourage some someway brave, though somewhat frightened and fractured parts of the lives that we somehow lead, and lead together.

Princeton University, "Conversation With... Professor Jeff Nunokawa" pt. 2

C hris Rodley
The Magic Realism Bot
Chris Rodley's Magic Realism Bot is a collaboration with his sister Ali. Chris wrote the syntax, the phrases, and the vocabulary lists; Ali Rodley wrote the code. Every two hours, Magic Realism Bot, tweets a randomly generated micro-magic realism-infused story.

resources: Chris Rodley, Magic Realism Bot. On this introductory page, Rodley notes that the bot was originally called BorgesBot:

"...but the particular flavour of dry, scholarly magic that Borges weaves was a bit restrictive (also, the metafictive element was hard to pull off in 140 characters).

So it now covers more colourful terrain – glass cathedrals, swimming pools filled with clocks, a tsarina who falls in love with time.

In the end, it became a blend of Borges with Calvino, Eco, García Márquez and Allende, together with a little bit of Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, Philip Pullman and (a childhood favourite of mine) Richard Hughes."

Chris Rodley's pages, Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice, Rutgers Camden DSC Facebook-based panel, November 16 - 21, 2016:

"...we don't need to think of these bots in a dualistic way as either machine (eg @oliviataters) or person (eg @horse_ebooks). Rather, bots on social platforms are hybrids of authors, their tools, and the responses of other social media users (usually the readers, but sometimes also other random users whose content has been swept up and spat out again). I wonder what other kinds of literary machines we could create if freed from the obligation to regard them as fully automated entities?"

C hindu Sreedharan
Platform: Twitter
Print publication as an authoring component
In the Internet retelling telling of epics, the writer is a performer, playing consciously to an unseen audience -- war journalist and lecturer Chindu Sreedharan, for instance, retelling his reimagined version of the Mahabharata on Twitter -- tweet by tweet.
Inspired by a blog retelling of the Mahabharata by Prem Panicker, for his Twitter version, Chindu Sreedharan rewrote the epic from the point of view of Bhima and retold it in 140 character segments that included the hashtags #TwitterFiction and #Mahabharata, as in the following example:

"'The righteous war you seek exists only in Yudhistira's mind…Come, we must prepare for the battle at night!' #TwitterFiction #Mahabharata”

The performance began on July 29, 2009 and lasted for 1605 days. Epic Retold was subsequently published in print book form by Harper-Collins India.

resources: Chindu Sreedharan, Epic Retold: #Mahabharata #TwitterFiction #Bhima #140Characters, HarperCollins India, 2015:

"Epic Retold attempts to pass a camel through the eye of a needle by rewriting the longest epic in the world using one of its shortest vehicles. The Mahabharata is the story of a war: bitter, poignant, devastating. Told here from the perspective of Bhima, Epic Retold makes a fierce antiwar statement. It is complex experiment that was originally micro-blogged on the Internet: a grand old epic reinterpreted for a new generation."

C. Sreedharan, How The Mahabharata Was Retold On Twitter", Huffington Post. February 2, 2015

Chindu Sreedharan's pages, Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice, Rutgers Camden DSC Facebook-based panel, November 16 - 21, 2016

T witterdammerung: the Twitter Opera
John Lloyd Davies, Director
Platform: Twitter
Performance as an authoring component

resources: Karla Adam, "'Twitterdammerung: the Twitter Opera' Debuts at the Royal Opera House", Washington Post, September 7, 2009

"The project began when the opera house invited the Twitterati to build on the line "One morning, very early, a man and a woman were standing, arm in arm, in London's Covent Garden. The man turned to the woman and he sang..."

Igor Toronyi-Lalic, "First Twitter opera given premier", The Telegraph. September 5, 2009

"Remember, not only was this libretto confected from the tweets of 900 minds, the offering we heard was but a mere extract of this mad confection...

M arco Williams
The Migrant Trail
Platform: transmedia

resource: Marco William's pages, Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice, Rutgers Camden DSC Facebook-based panel, November 16 - 21, 2016

JM: "When as a protagonist in Marco Williams 's Migrant Trail-- -- we join a group of migrants crossing the desert from Mexico to the US, over and over, the supplies dwindle as we share them with stricken comrades, and their/our chances of making it to safety in Arizona are fraught with exhaustion, heat stroke, scorpion bites, arrest by the border patrol, or death in the dessert. The reality is overwhelming; we do not emerge unscathed by the experience.

I played this game again yesterday evening, following 6 or 7 of the characters. No one whom I became/followed made it to safety.

Expect not a treasure, in this game. Understanding is the only reward.

The Migrant Trail accompanies Marco William's The Undocumented, a film that documents migrant deaths along the Arizona-Mexico border. The game, (computer- media interactive experience seems more appropriate here), is a potent example of how -- when transmedia accompanies films -- the affordances of interactivity contribute to empathy and understanding."

A n Xiao
Morse Code Tweets @ The Brooklyn Museum
Platform: Twitter
Performance as an authoring component
Communications theories were at the heart of early artist explorations – such as the work done by the Electronic Café in the 1980's. In this tradition, at the Brooklyn Museum, artist An Xiao stood in front of a portrait by artist and telegraph inventor, Samuel B, Morse. In conjunction with a narrative of communicating with her grandmother, she sent a series of tweets in Morse code. Observing that when she was a child, the letters she wrote to her grandmother took two weeks to arrive at her grandmother’s home in Manilla, An Xiao explored how radically instant communications technologies have changed.

resource: In a series of articles in hyperallergic, in 2010, An Xiao reflects on social media art: An Xiao, "Always Social: Social Media Art (2004-2008), Part One", hyperallergic, June 14, 2010.


Roy Ascott,
Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness,
edited and with an essay by Edward A. Shanken. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

British artist and telematics theorist Roy Ascott produced the collaborative fairy tale, La Plissure du Text, on IP Sharp's ARTEX network in July 1983. With participant characters in 11 cities, including Pittsburg, Vancouver, Vienna, San Francisco, and Toronto, La Plissure du Text was augmented at each node, as it travelled from artist to artist. For his prescient thinking -- encompassing both communications theory and the role of interactivity in the creative arts -- for his early work, such as the late 1950's Change Paintings and for his early telematic work, this collection of 27 essays by Ascott and an overarching Introduction by the book's editor, Edward Shanken, is an important contribution to the literature of social media-based narrative.

review: Vincent Bonin, "Roy Ascott, Telematic Embrace", Daniel Langlois Foundation, 2003:

"...Starting in the 1980s and 1990s, Ascott's thinking was increasingly influenced by the growing accessibility of telecommunications technologies (videoconferencing, computer networks), which provided solid and sophisticated technological propositions to support the postulates he had been advancing theoretically since 1963. In parallel with his production of major works, Ascott outlined a definition of art informed by the concepts of telematics, networking, interactivity and interface -- terms that were just starting to come into use in the arts..."

Linda Burnham and Steven Durland
The Citizen Artist: 20 Years of Art in the Public Arena.
NY: Critical Press, New York, 1998.

A collection of critical writing and interviews from High Performance Magazine, 1978-1998, The Citizen Artist: 20 Years of Art in the Public Arena is a core reference for understanding one of the primary threads from which creative practice arose on the early Internet. Among many others, chapters include"

Cheri Gaulke, "Acting Like Women: Performance Art of the Woman’s Building"

Linda Frye Burnham, "Between the Diaspora and the Crinoline: An Interview with Bonnie Sherk"

Adrian Piper, "Ideology, Confrontation and Political Self-Awareness"

Guillermo Gomez Pena, Judith Baca, Felipe Ehrenberg, David Avalos, and Emily Hicks, "The Artist as Citizen"

Aida Mancillas, "The Citizen Artist"

From the Introduction:

"Art FOR the public? Art OF the public? Art BY the public? Single words that signify a world of historical and critical issues facing the public artist. Over the last two decades of the 20th Century art workers hotly debated the concepts of "the public," the "responsibility of the artist" and the "purpose" and "meaning" of art–especially when art is moved out of the museum/gallery and into the spaces of daily life. The Citizen Artist, a compendium of articles from the magazine High Performance, brings forth the voices of the artists that formed the backbone of these debates. From the Conceptual Art experiments of the ’70s to the community-based art of the ’90s, from political theories humanist concerns, the historical elements that have been integral to the development of public art make this one of the most engaging topics relating to art production today."

Beth Coleman
Hello Avatar, Rise of the Networked Generation.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011

In Hello Avatar, Rise of the Networked Generation, the history and issues of online identity, the idea/the "reality" of avatar which permeates online experience are lucidly defined and considered by scholar and electronic music composer Beth Coleman.

from MIT Press

"...By avatar, Coleman means not just the animated figures that populate our screens but the gestalt of images, text, and multimedia that make up our online identities—in virtual worlds like Second Life and in the form of email, video chat, and other digital artifacts. Exploring such network activities as embodiment, extreme (virtual) violence, and the work in virtual reality labs, and offering sidebar interviews with designers and practitioners, she argues that what is new is real-time collaboration and copresence, the way we make connections using networked media and the cultures we have created around this. The star of this drama of expanded horizons is the networked subject—all of us who represent aspects of ourselves and our work across the mediascape..."

Also of interest is Coleman's concept of X-reality:

"X-reality describes a world that is no longer distinctly virtual or real but, instead, representative of a diversity of network combinations. With X-reality, I mark a turn toward an engagement of networked media integrated into daily life, perceived as part of a continuum of actual events. This is a movement away from computer-generated spaces, places, and worlds that are notably outside of what we might call real life and a transition into a mobile, real-time, and pervasively networked landscape." (pp 19-20)

Judith Donath
The Social Machine, Designs for Living Online.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014

review: Judy Malloy, Review: Judith Donath, The Social Machine, Designs for Living Online",
content | code | process, 2015:

"...We approach social media for various reasons, to gather information, to widen our circle of friends or colleagues, to participate in a way of expression that is becoming central to our society. Seldom do we step back and look at the social media environment in a visual way, asking: what does this "place"-where-I-spend-my-time contribute to the aesthetic qualities of my environment? How could it be re-imagined to allow people to enter a virtual space that is not only intellectually stimulating but also continually visually interesting. In The Social Machine, Donath reminds us of the time spent online and asks us to consider the interfaces of social media systems and the ways we approach them..."

complete review

Volker Eisenlauer
A Critical Hypertext Analysis of Social Media: The True Colours of Facebook.
London:Bloomsbury Academic, 2015

Eisenlauer examines how Facebook's interface design and algorithms impact user experience, resulting in a gradual loss of control over user content -- including the contexts in which user content is presented. In this respect, he also documents the gulf between user perception of user control and Facebook's not-always-visible algorithmic control.

It is important to acknowledge and understand the existence of the content control issues explored in "A Critical Hypertext Analysis of Social Media. Thus -- although there are issues with Eisenlauer's coverage of hypertext literary practice and even with his history of social media itself -- his book is valuable for its study of user content expectation versus commercial social media platform algorithmic control of user generated content.

Robert W. Gehl
Reverse Engineering Social Media: Software, Culture, and Political Economy in New Media Capitalism.
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014

Calling in Reverse Engineering Social Media, for "equal capacity to receive and transmit" and a decentralized architecture, Robert Gehl encourages users to modify social media platforms to meet their own needs, as well as to curtail uses of personal data for surveillance. "If social media protocols provide us with a common language", he observes, "we can use that language to discuss our common problems and find ways to modify social media software." (p. 115)

Gehl frames his arguments in terms of management of software production and corporate advertising research (behavioral advertising practice). Nevertheless, for creators of arts content, his documentation of the importance of decentralization, open source software, and encryption -- as well as on pedagogy that explores working in the environment of social media platform constraints -- is important.

Chapters are as follows:

Introduction: Looking Forward and Backward: Heterogeneous Engineering of Social Media Software
1. The Computerized Socialbot Turing Test: Noopower and the Social Media State(s) of Mind
2. The Archive and the Processor: The Internal Hardware Logic of Social Media
3. Architecture and Implementation: Engineering Real (Software) Abstractions in Social Media
4. Standardizing Social Media: Technical Standards, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Rise of Social Media Templates
5. Engineering a Class for Itself: The Case of Wikipedia’s Spanish Fork Labor Strike
6. A Manifesto for Socialized Media

Reverse Engineering Social Media exhibits a not uncommon unfamiliarity with early social media and with creative arts uses of contemporary social media. However, it is a core source -- not only for its visualization of commercial social media platforms in terms of their potential for educated use but also for its survey of contemporary alternative platforms, such as Diaspora, GNU Social, FreedomBox, Tor, Creative Commons, Riseup, and Zurker.

review: Michael Stevenson, Review of Reverse Engineering Social Media Computational Culture, November 9, 2014

D. Fox Harrell
Phantasmal Media: An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013

review: Judy Malloy, "Review: D. Fox Harrell, Phantasmal Media", content | code | process, 2014.

"...The creation of electronic literature, literary games, and content-intense interactive art involves a complex combining of content and code/authoring system, as well as a consideration of user interface and the ability to put it all together -- whether the writer's vision is to emphasize the constraints or to create a work where the constraints are not apparent to the reader. Print poets have thousands of years of lineage of the constraints of writing poetry and thus an inherent heightened ability to compose, whether intuitively or with deliberatively imposed constraints.

In contrast, although there is energy in this seemingly never-ending struggle, creators of new media must constantly rise above evolving technologies and look to the meaning of the work as a whole. To this end, for those who work on the fertile borders of content and code, Fox Harrell's Phantasmal Media is required reading...

complete review

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green
Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture.
New York:New York University Press, 2013.

Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture is a recommended read for students of social media-based narrative, Artists and writers do not necessary strive for large audiences, and this book primarily focuses on "big media". Nevertheless, when we create on social media, we have entered a world that we may not be prepared for, and as the book notes at its onset:

".. new communication platforms do not determine some inevitable 'end,' whether that be democratization or destabilization. What people collectively and individually decide to do with those technologies as professionals and as audiences, and what kinds of culture people produce and spread in and around these tools, is still being determined. Those media scholars, industry practitioners, and active media participants who care about seeking an inclusive, equitable, and robust media landscape cannot accept the evolution of media platforms and content creation as if it were the unalterable consequence of technological developments. Our hope is to examine the tensions among these various views but also to explore what is missing: the ways the activities of connected individuals are currently or could potentially, help shape the communication environment around them. If these technologies and logics were not still subject to change, this book would be pointless." (p. xiii-xiv)

From New York University Press:

"Following up on the hugely influential Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, this book challenges some of the prevailing metaphors and frameworks used to describe contemporary media, from biological metaphors like 'memes' and 'viral' to the concept of 'Web 2.0' and the popular notion of 'influencers.' Spreadable Media examines the nature of audience engagement,the environment of participation, the way appraisal creates value, and the transnational flows at the heart of these phenomena. It delineates the elements that make content more spreadable and highlights emerging media business models built for a world of participatory circulation. The book also explores the internal tensions companies face as they adapt to the new communication reality and argues for the need to shift from 'hearing' to 'listening' in corporate culture.

Drawing on examples from film, music, games, comics, television, transmedia storytelling, advertising, and public relations industries, among others -- from both the U.S. and around the world -- the authors illustrate the contours of our current media environment. They highlight the vexing questions content creators must tackle and the responsibilities we all face as citizens in a world where many of us regularly circulate media content. Written for any and all of us who actively create and share media content, Spreadable Media provides a clear understanding of how people are spreading ideas and the implications these activities have for business, politics, and everyday life."

Examples of the potential reach of the small-scale work of artists and writers are very little present in Spreadable Media. But, as the book points out, creative uses of Internet-distributed content are in our own hands to study and shape.

Judy Malloy, ed.
Social Media Archeology and Poetics.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016.

From MIT Press:

"Focusing on early social media in the arts and humanities and on the core role of creative computer scientists, artists, and scholars in shaping the pre-Web social media landscape, Social Media Archeology and Poetics documents social media lineage, beginning in the 1970s with collaborative ARPANET research, Community Memory, PLATO, Minitel, and ARTEX and continuing into the 1980s and beyond with the Electronic Café, Art Com Electronic Network, Arts Wire, The THING, and many more.

With first person accounts from pioneers in the field, as well as papers by artists, scholars, and curators, Social Media Archeology and Poetics documents how these platforms were vital components of early social networking and important in the development of new media and electronic literature. It describes platforms that allowed artists and musicians to share and publish their work, community networking diversity, and the creation of footholds for the arts and humanities online. And it invites comparisons of social media in the past and present, asking: What can we learn from early social media that will inspire us to envision a greater cultural presence on contemporary social media?"

review: Tommer Peterson, "Social Media Archeology and Poetics" Grantmakers in the Arts GIA Reader, 28:1 (Winter 2017)

"In this dense and fascinating book, Judy Malloy has assembled a multifaceted collage of essays and articles that examine the evolution of cyberspace, with a focus on the surprising role that artists and writers played, and the ways that their work and experiments provided a foundation and shape for the social media universe we know today."

"...Artists quickly saw the creative potential of cyberspace as a multidimensional extension of both the studio and the page. Artist-generated participatory media projects removed the boundary between the creator and the audience, and set the stage for what became an entire industry of role playing and online gaming. The borders of traditional artistic disciplines, already eroded by the 1990s, further lost relevance as new digital forms emerged."

Ruth E. Page
Stories and Social Media: Identities and Interaction.
New York: Routledge, 2012.

from Routledge

"This book examines everyday stories of personal experience that are published online in contemporary forms of social media. Taking examples from discussion boards, blogs, social network sites, microblogging sites, wikis, collaborative and participatory storytelling projects, Ruth Page explores how new and existing narrative genres are being (re)shaped in different online contexts. The book shows how the characteristics of social media, which emphasize recency, interpersonal connection and mobile distribution, amplify or reverse different aspects of canonical storytelling. The new storytelling patterns which emerge provide a fresh perspective on some of the key concepts in narrative research: structure, evaluation and the location of speaker and audience in time and space. The online stories are profoundly social in nature, and perform important identity work for their tellers as they interact with their audiences - identities which range from celebrities in Twitter, cancer survivors in the blogosphere to creative writers convening storytelling projects or local histories..."


Preface 1: Introduction: Stories and Social Media in Context
2: Second Stories Told in Discussion Forums
3: Narratives of Illness and Personal Blogs
4: Storytelling Styles in Facebook Updates
5: Celebrity Practice: Stories told in Twitter
6: Narrative and Commentary in Collaborative Storytelling
7: Space and Identity in Stories on the Move
8: Fakes, Fictions and Facebook "Rape": Narrative Authenticity
9: Familiar, Reconfigured and Emergent Dimensions of Narrative Introduction: stories and social media in context

The primarily social media platforms that Stories and Social Media addresses are Facebook and Twitter. And, as Routledge notes and the table of contents indicates, in this book there is definition of "stories" that focuses on "everyday stories of personal experience".

In the book itself, the issues that Ruth Page sets forth include the kinds of stories that are told in social media formats; how stories are embedded in "the multilayered contexts of social media"; how different constraints and popular usage conventions determine characteristics of social media stories on different platforms; reasons for telling stories in social media; and the reader's relationship with social media-based stories.

To these ends, initially she considers electronic literature and definitions of digital narratology -- exploring, for instance, differences of audience, interaction, and literary expectation between "stories" and electronic literature; how stories as defined in Stories and Social Media are usually not fiction; how rather than interactivity between reader and text, these stories emphasize interactivity between reader and community; and how "stories' are usually not intended for inclusion in the literary-critical digital narratology canon.

Although the works included in this content | code | process resource on Contemporary Social Media Narrative, are on the whole in the category of digital narratology, it should be noted that because writers of social media-based narrative work in an environment of community storytelling, and because we create in an X-reality landscape of shifting definitions of "literary", Ruth Page's Stories and Social Media is of continuing interest.

José van Dijck
The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media
Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013.


Chapter 1: Engineering Sociality in a Culture of Connectivity
Chapter 2: Disassembling Platforms, Reassembling Sociality
Chapter 3: Facebook and the Imperative of Sharing
Chapter 4: Twitter and the Paradox of Following and Trending
Chapter 5: Flickr between Communities and Commerce
Chapter 6: YouTube: The Intimate Connection between Television and Video-sharing
Chapter 7: Wikipedia and the Principle of Neutrality
Chapter 8: The Ecosystem of Connective Media: Locked In, Fenced Off, Opt Out?

The Culture of Connectivity is distinguished by its detailed coverage of platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. For instance, Chapter 3's discussion of Facebook's history of algorithmic control filters, includes Beacon, (targeted advertisements) and EdgeRank and GraphRank (news feeds, targeted news feeds). This chapter also documents attempts to break Facebook's algorithms.

Due to continuing changes and increasing management secrecy, it would be difficult for any book to unravel all the details of contemporary Social Media platform algorithms. But looking at their known history and the issues their known history raise is a viable approach. For example, about EdgeRank, van Dijck observes that:

"The problem is that users cannot know exactly how this filter works. All filters added to Facebook have resulted in mostly invisible algorithms and protocols that to a great degree control the 'visibility' of friends, news, items, or ideas. The objective is obviously to personalize and optimize one's online experiences, but the aim may be to promote something or someone, although that aim may be hard to trace".

Chapter 4, "Twitter and the Paradox of Following and Trending", examines Twitter's stated goals in juxtaposition with issues -- similar to those The Culture of Connectivity explores on Facebook -- of how streams of data are engineered to promote certain uses and users over others. The book also discusses the issue of whether Twitter is an information network rather than a social networking service.

Regarding the assimilation of Twitter into contemporary culture, and contingently the similarity in the size of Tweets and newspaper quotes, van Dijck notes how Twitter's vocabulary -- the hashtag, RT, etc. -- has become part of contemporary language. "Aside from figuring in the news", she observes, "the tweet has emerged as a cultural form inspiring poets and literary authors."

In the concluding chapter of The Culture of Connectivity, "The Ecosystem of Connective Media: Lock In, Fence Off, Opt Out?", José van Dijck raises a number of issues that -- regardless of one's agreement with her premises in all respects -- are important to discuss:

"If we look back upon the past decade of the evolving ecosystem, it is instructive to recall the early promise that Web 2.0 platforms would liberate content. The production of music, films, videos, art, and texts would no longer be limited to professionals, as the tools for creative production would be yielded to amateurs and citizens. Content would be released of cultural constraints -- restrictive cultural forms and formats-- and economic restrictions, as it was to be distributed free of charge. 'Making content social' was supposed to mean that users generate and circulate digital content so as to enhance informational diversity. However, over the past decade, users and platform owners have appreciated the value of online content differently. Whereas the first regarded it as something to be created and shared, the latter increasingly defined it as something to be managed and exploited. Whereas users cared mostly about the quality and form of content, platform owners were preoccupied by data quantities and traffic volume."

#Books: The Contemporary Infosphere

James J. Brown, Jr.,
Ethical Programs: Hospitality and the Rhetorics of Software
Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2015.

From the publisher's website:

"James J. Brown Jr. is without question one of the most sophisticated theorists working in the rapidly emerging field of digital rhetoric today. Not many writers can knowledgeably combine readings of continental philosophy, close interpretation of lines of computer code and data analytics, and commentary on Internet policies and practices; yet Brown does so expertly and confidently. This book is a must read in for scholars of digital culture interested in the politics of protocols. With examples that range from Wikipedia entries to updates from the Obama campaign website, the reader grows to understand not only how software promotes particular arguments but also how it advances an ethical agenda endowed with considerable nuance that must by necessity expand our understanding of conflict and hospitality." —Elizabeth Losh, University of California, San Diego


Introduction: The Swarm
1. Web Hosting: Hospitality and Ethical Programs
Part 1: Hospitable Networks
2. Processing Power: Procedural Rhetoric and Protocol
3. Possibility Spaces: Exploits and Persuasion
Part 2. Hospitable Databases
4. Database Integrity: Ethos and the Archive
5. Rhetorical Devices: Database, Narrative, and Machinic Thinking
Conclusion: About, With, In—Hospitality and the Rhetorics of Software

"Networked life reminds us, over and over again, that there is no home without connections to the outside, no house without windows and doors. This is the Law of hospitality that defines networked life, and it demands that we author ethical programs that take up the questions of the other’s arrival." - James Brown, Jr.

Building on Jacques Derrida's philosophy of hospitality and pointing out that the expression "going online", which dates from early networked connectivity, is no longer as meaningful in this era, where the moment we turn on our computers, we are online, James Brown's Ethical Programs: Hospitality and the Rhetorics of Software defines ethical programs as evoking both computer programs and programs of action developed to deal with ethical issues. And it is addresses a core question:

"How does software navigate between the unconditional welcome granted by a network connection, an invitation extended to a faceless foe, and the measured, conditional gestures that inevitably emerge in response, the gestures that begin to determine who or what is friend and foe?".

Ethical Programs is remarkable for the clarity and relevance of the examples it provides, such as the Obama Presidential campaign's use of social networking software; such as software "exploits" that reveal gaps in security or functionality -- for example the onMouseover Twitter hack, the study of which, Brown observes, is useful in looking at the role of public discussions about code in educating both programmers and nonprogrammers: "Who gets to exploit gaps in software? Who is part of the conversation when an exploit emerges? What does the exploit tell us about the software or protocols in question?"

Exploring issues of identity, Chapter 4 details both the "Essjay" controversy -- a case where the prolific Wikipedia writer, "Essjay", gave himself fraudulent credentials -- and the attempts of Larry Sanger's Citizendium to build a wiki-based encyclopedia, that requires contributors to use their real names.

Questions of database and narrative are addressed in Chapter 5. Here, as a cogent example of the blurred lines between narrative and database, Brown examines robot writers that compose professional baseball recap stories -- in particular, Narrative Science's Robot narrative generation system, Stats Monkey.

The concluding chapter provides "a framework for understanding the rhetorics (plural) of software that emerge in the hospitable network."

"My hope, Brown writes, "is that these intersecting and overlapping rhetorics of software offer a way forward for those of us interested in examining the ethical programs of networked life."

Mary Chayko
Superconnected: The Internet, Digital Media, and Techno-Social Life.
London, UK: SAGE Publication, 2016.

Articulate exploration of the "superconnected techno-social life", the intersection between offline and online, shifting digital/cultural divides, and the forging of social connections and virtual environments.

Howard Rheingold
Net Smart.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2012.

Essential guide to the informed use of the contemporary Internet. In the words of social media pioneer, Howard Rheingold: "The future of digital culture -- yours, mine, and ours -- depends on how well we learn to use the media that have infiltrated, amplified, distracted, enriched, and complicated our lives."

Jill Walker Rettberg
Seeing Ourselves Through Technology:
How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Beginning with a literate, readable history of self-representation in literature/narrative, in the visual arts (self portraits, for instance), and with quantitative and/or locative information -- such as maps, graphs, and GPS diaries -- Seeing Ourselves Through Technology is an informative and challenging (in the sense of raising questions and exploring different viewpoints) look at self representation as communication on the contemporary Internet.

With an expanded definition of filters, that, in addition to app-filtered photographs, embraces constraints -- such as 140 words on Twitter and an expected last-post-first order in blogs -- Seeing Ourselves Through Technology documents the role of filters in social media-based culture. It also looks at the cumulative and serial nature of social media narrative and at the role of automated creation and organization of information in our lives -- in the process, exploring the consequences of measuring our lives through the data collected by smart baby monitors and activity trackers. The book concludes with a chapter on "Privacy and Surveillance".

Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves is available as a free download at

Marie-Laure Ryan, Lori Emerson, and Benjamin Robertson, eds
The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media
Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014

With approximately 150 entries on practical and theoretical aspects of digital media -- each entry written by a leading scholar and/or practitioner in the field -- The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media is an essential guide to the field as a whole, including among many others:

Algorithm - Bethany Nowviskie
Animated Poetry - Philippe Bootz
Augmented Reality - Jay David Bolter
Authoring Systems - Judy Malloy
Code - Mark C. Marino
Collaborative Narrative - Scott Rettberg
Dialogue Systems - Jichen Zhu
Digital Humanities - Matthew K. Gold
Digital Poetry - Leonardo Flores
E-books - Johanna Drucker
Games as Stories - David Ciccoricco
Interactive Fiction - Emily Short
Location-Based Narrative - Scott Ruston
Ludus and Paidia - Marie-Laure Ryan
Mobile Entertainment - Anastasia Salter
Role-Playing Games - Olivier Caira and Susana Pajares Tosca
Transmedial Fiction - Christy Dena

Overlapping entries, written by scholars from different bases (European, South American, and American viewpoints, for instance), provide windows into different approaches and histories for each subject.

Tom Standage
Writing on the Wall, Social Media -- the First 2,000 Years.
NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2013.

Beginning with a quote from Cicero -- "Others will write, many will bring the news, much too will reach me even in the way of rumor" -- Writing on the Wall, is of interest for its revelations of the social antecedents of today's social media, and, in the process, for its use of history to "cast new light on modern debates," as well as for the energy it brings to the study of social media. Along the way, there are the Devonshire Manuscript, coffeehouse conversation, and the role of printing in revolutions..

#Papers and Chapters: Social Media Narrative

Geert Lovink, "What Is the Social in Social Media?" e-flux, 2012.
Lovink weaves new media theory, information art practice, and a majestic flow of questions in a must-read rant, from which this is only a small sample:

"Do we only share information, experiences, and emotions, or do we also conspire, as "social swarms," to raid reality in order to create so-called real-world events? Will contacts mutate into comrades? It seems that social media solves the organizational problems that the suburban baby-boom generation faced fifty years ago: boredom, isolation, depression, and desire. How do we come together, right now? Do we unconsciously fear (or long for) the day when our vital infrastructure breaks down and we really need each other? Or should we read this Simulacrum of the Social as an organized agony over the loss of community after the fragmentation of family, marriage, and friendship? Why do we assemble these ever-growing collections of contacts? Is the Other, relabeled as "friend," nothing more than a future customer or business partner? What new forms of social imaginary exist? At what point does the administration of others mutate into something different altogether? Will "friending" disappear overnight, like so many new media-related practices that vanished in the digital nirvana"?

Review: "Expanding on 'What Is the Social in Social Media?': A Conversation with Geert Lovink," in Judy Malloy, Social Media Archeology and Poetics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016. pp. 393-398
With three questions and three answers, this conversation focuses on social media as viewed through the lens of Lovink's 2012 e-flux essay, "What Is the Social in Social Media?"
The questions are:

1. " …what roles you envision for artists and writers in contemporary social media?"
2. "How can we create in a medium that combines text and image and interactivity?"
3. "Yes! Here is my data show me yours. But why are we not only doing this but also enjoying it on Saturday night? And can you take this somewhat rhetorical question into the future with your personal vision? How do you envision a social media of the future?"

Graham Meikle and Sherman Young, "Never Ending Stories," in Meikle and Young, Media Convergence, Networked Digital Media in Everyday Life. Basingstoke, Hampshire, England; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. pp. 79-102, "Creative Audiences", pp. 103-126

"Convergence," defined as by the authors as "the coming together of things that were previously separate," is used in lieu of "transmedia". Topics in the cited chapter include convergent technologies, large remix/mashup projects, and convergent technologies. In the following chapter, "Creative Audiences" are addressed.

Barbara Pollack, "The Social Revolution," ARTnews, June 1, 2011.

"Today's Facebook comments are tomorrow's artworks as artists harness social technology to comment on how our new connectivity is changing our culture." - Barbara Pollack

Pollack's arts writer's coverage of social media-based art -- as seen in 2011 -- covers curator response to social media-based work, as well as the work of artists including An Xiao, Man Bartlett, Benjamin Lotan, Ryan Trecartin and David Karp, Matt Held, Debbie Hesse, and Jennifer Dalton, among others.

Jay Rosen, "The People Formerly Known as the Audience," Pressthink, June 27, 2006.

"The people formerly known as the audience are those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another -- and who today are not in a situation like that at all."

A classic work on radical changes in the production of contemporary media:

"The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable. You should welcome that, media people. But whether you do or not we want you to know we’re here."

Joachim Vlieghe, Kelly L. Page, and Kris Rutten, "Twitter, the most brilliant tough love editor you'll ever have, Reading and writing socially during the Twitter Fiction Festival," First Monday 21:4, April 4, 2016.

"Much like the experiments and oral traditions of poets from the Middle Ages, today's writers explore the potential of different literary practices and narrative forms in social media environments. They seek and try out various methods to connect more directly and more deeply with readers and to evoke their senses. From a writer's perspective, this transformation involves adapting to the new spaces and infrastructures for experiencing literature, as well as renegotiating the various expectations that exist within society towards producers of literary text..."

Scott Rettberg, "All Together Now: Hypertext, Collective Narrative, and Online Collective Knowledge Communities," in Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas, eds New Narratives: Stories and Storytelling in the Digital Age, University of Nebraska Press, 2011

"This essay is an exploration of the history and methodologies of collective narrative projects, and their relationship to collective knowledge projects and methodologies. By examining different forms of conscious, contributory, and unwitting participation, the essay attempts to develop a richer understanding of successful large-scale collaborative projects. The essay then examines largescale architectures of participation in Wikipedia and Flickr to extrapolate from those observations potential methodologies for the creation of collective narratives."

Produced by Judy Malloy
2016-2017 Fellow, Digital Studies Center
Rutgers Camden University
Last Update: July 14, 2017

Panelists' Pages


Avatar Repertory Theater

Man Bartlett

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Teju Cole

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Jennifer Egan
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Robert Emmons Jr.

Neil Gaiman
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Joy Garnett

Dene Grigar
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Matt Held
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I am a Korean American

Miranda July

The LA Flood

Deena Larsen
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Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Lauren McCarthy

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Chindu Sreedharan

Marco Williams
The Migrant Trail

An Xiao
Morse Code Tweets @ The Brooklyn Museum


Roy Ascott
Telematic Embrace

Burnham & Durland
Citizen Artist

Beth Coleman
Hello Avatar

Judith Donath
The Social Machine

Volker Eisenlauer
Critical Hypertext Analysis of Social Media

Robert Gehl
Reverse Engineering Social Media

Fox Harrell
Phantasmal Media

Jenkins, Ford,& Green
Spreadable Media

Judy Malloy
Social Media Archeology and Poetics

Ruth Page
Stories and Social Media


James J. Brown, Jr
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Mary Chayko

Jill Walker Rettberg
Seeing Ourselves Through Technology

Howard Rheingold
Net Smart

Ryan, Emerson, and Robertson, eds
The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media

Tom Standage
Writing on the Wall


Geert Lovink
"What Is the Social in Social Media?"

Graham Meikle
"Never Ending Stories"

Barbara Pollack
"The Social Revolution"

Jay Rosen
"The People..."

Joachim Vlieghe

Scott Rettberg
"All Together Now: