Monday, June 15, 2009

Celebrate Bloomsday with Performance Twitter

VWV Note: The guys in charge of this venture openly admit they are not fans of twitter. With that said, I find this Bloomsday performance to be an interesting experiment on using Twitter.

Just what is Twitter good for? Sure, it’s good for getting Tweets about your favorite celebrities like Miley Cyrus with updates like “daddys giving me therapy. this is worth 10000000 dollars.” If you’re not a celeb hound, however, just what can you do with Twitter? Sure, you can keep in touch with what friends are buying at the grocery store, but there’s got to be more to it, doesn’t there?

Georgia Tech’s Ian Bogost and Ian McCarthy of LinkedIn were discussing the issue and wondered, “what if the focus on socialization and identity is actually the least interesting way to use Twitter?” What about using Twitter as a performance tool? So they came up with the idea of recreating a chapter on Twitter from James Joyce’s novel Ulysses and broadcasting it on June 16, the day the action in the novel takes place in 1904. Every year “Bloomsday,” as it’s known, is celebrated in Joyce’s home country of Ireland and in other English-speaking parts of the world.

Bogost, associate professor at the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, and McCarthy conceived the notion and first performed it in 2007 using more than 50 characters from the “Wandering Rocks” chapter of the book. They did it again last year and plan to reprise the performance, this June 16. They have several dozen characters from the novel who all Tweet their acts from the book at the correct fictional times. The chapter is famous for showing the interlocking events of characters in central Dublin, so the Twitter format is apropos.

Bogost explains the idea further in his blog “Joyce conceived of the book’s principal character, Leopold Bloom, as an everyman counterpoint to Odysseus, whose adventure Bloom’s parallels. Each of the book’s 18 chapters take place in roughly an hour’s time.”

"The 10th of these, Wandering Rocks, follows 19 Dubliners walking through the city doing their daily business, some intersecting with others. It’s a famous and often-studied section of the book, one that also speaks to an experience of urban modernity that has become second-nature to us now.”

"Enthusiasts often retrace the characters’ steps on Bloomsday, and innumerable animated maps and the like have been created by fans and scholars. The latter technique still doesn’t really represent the interleaved simultaneity of Wandering Rocks, the complexity yet ordinariness of space and interaction that Joyce’s writing accomplishes. And the former technique turns the ordinariness of the episode into a kind of theme park, missing the importance of the Wandering Rocks as a vignette of the scenario that grounds the rest of the novel.”

The Tweets begin on June 16, at 2:55 pm Dublin time, which is 9:55 am Eastern time.

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