Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A brief argument with myself about twitter

[I posted this a few hours ago as a dialogue with Hamish Dewe. I did talk with Hamish about twitter recently, but he's pointed out (see the comments box) that the text posted here sees me arguing more with myself than with him. I've adjusted credits accordingly...]

SH: I've joined twitter.

SH: Fool.

SH: Why? You don't appreciate the medium?

SH: I was speaking generally. But, now you mention it, no.

SH: You're such a technophobe.

SH: But my problem is really with the way twitter is used.

SH: The fact that so much twitter traffic consists of gossip and jokes?

SH: That I can tolerate -

SH: I've got one hundred and fifty followers so far, but I don't know many of them -

SH: Followers! Followers! Can you hear yourself? You speak as though you stand like a prophet at the front of some millenarian medieval army! Do you think these people are going to 'follow' you into battle against the Dark Lord Sith in the hills outside Huntly? Followers...

SH: Is the Dark Lord Sith another name for John Ansell? Seriously, though, there's been a tendency for several years, across the internet, for a lot of discussion to move from blogs and other long-format sites to social media like facebook and twitter. I'm writing a series of pieces on Tongan art for the online journal EyeContact. Not a single person has commented on these pieces at EyeContact - and yet there have been multiple discussion threads, some of them quite long, on facebook, and a few on twitter. This is a pattern.

SH: Quite possibly a lamentable pattern.

SH: I think that twitter is the internet equivalent of a formula one racing car. Size, comfort, and politeness are all sacrificed in pursuit of speed.

SH: There are different types of speed.

SH: I think of twitter as a chaotic, sometimes snarled up multi-lane motorway connecting various relatively quiet parts of the internet -

SH: A workable fancy. But the main problem with twitter is its antediluvian nature. You mentioned poetry. Did you know that Ezra Pound, a century ago, invented the digital technology we know today? And he did so in a London garret, with a pen and paper.  No frills. Pound smashed the nineteenth century superstition known as narrative, and put in its place a literature that jumped instantly from one image and throught-fragment to the next -

SH: So 'The apparition of these faces in the [metro station] crowd/ Petals on a wet, black bough', with its famous leap from one image to another, is a sort of hyperlink -

SH: Yes and no. Pound and other key modernists created technology like the hyperlink, by experimenting on, by rewiring, their own brains, so that they could leap from one image, from one idea, to another. But the internet, and sites like twitter, haven't caught up with the innovation. Most of the links you find on twitter are entirely obvious. John Key tweets 'Having fun in the White House' and offers a link: you click on it, and find a photo of Key shaking hands with Obama. It's pathetic. The hyperlink, which Pound and other modernists intended as a new way of thinking, as an exhilarating aleatory ride from one to another revelatory idea, as way of connecting distances, of bring farness near, has been subordinated to the logic of narrative, of linearity. Plod, plod, plod. Is it any wonder why so much of the content on twitter and similar sites is so banal?

SH: Is this in some ways a complaint about certain patterns of contemporary life, as well as about aesthetics? There are some lines by Tomas Tanstromer that I love: 'I went to bed that evening/ I woke up at three am, under the keel/ At the bottom of the sea/ Where the bones of the dead coldly associate with one another.' Those lines make an astonishing leap, a leap we are unprepared for, a leap, or rather a fall, from the comfort and security of the bed to the cold unbreathable strangeness of the ocean. They might seem surreal, but they communicate something of the fragility of human security, the sense that something is waiting for us -

SH: There's no need to labour the point. Linear habits of mind breed linear ways of living.

SH: Perhaps, then, we should take to twitter and reclaim the hyperlink, by using it connect surprising images and ideas and people?

SH: That has already been done. Have you heard of Rickrolling? Look it up. Oh, I forgot: you already have. The radical potential of the hyerlink is satirised rather than exploited. I guess I feel kinda ambivalent about twitter. Hamish Dewe, on the other hand...

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Anonymous HD said...

As usual, a completely imaginary exchange with an unfortunately real interlocutor. I'm not sure why you don't do away with the fiction. Perhaps the argument seems more persuasive if you divide it up between two characters?

11:56 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

I just seem saner than I really am. But I did give you the best lines. Anyhow, I've come out as a split personality.

2:34 pm  
Anonymous HD said...

If I'm remembered at all, it's most likely to be as one of SHH's heteronyms. The one that gets all the references to uncle ez.

3:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh no

3:22 pm  
Blogger Giovanni Tiso said...

Sounds like you'd enjoy Darren Tofts' MEMORY TRADE, which traces the prehistory of hyptertext to Finnegans Wake. It's an excellent book.

4:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U r dicks 4 sure eh lol!

5:03 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

My objection to Twitter is not technology or whether people will read (say) EYELIGHT, but simply that I don't care very much whether anyone reads it (nice indeed if they do which is why I use FB as well as I can keep up with my family etc) but Twitter is for me just another of those things that, while it is no doubt wonderful etc, is another thing to waste my time and for ME it is a big problem doing anything let alone more Internet stuff.

I got rid of my TV and keep my phone off the hook most of the time. But my son has a TV so I may watch Germany-Brazil tommorrow morning. But apart from stuff during dinner and Ice-Truckers, I leave the TV. Then there is already the "seduction" of everything on my computer.

But I can see the big value of FB and no doubt Twitter (which I heard about in 2009 but haven't bothered with)...

On here you mainly get me or crackpots (or other crackpots some might say) and the scammers.

It's good to see HD here even as a semi- anonymous. If he had a Blog he would blog once every 2 or maybe 10 years with 12 lines carefully done...or something. (Of course I jestm, but, I mean, there is a place for quality etc)

I think BTW you omit the efforts also of Olson and others, Pound's contribution is far more than those imagistic things: he wrote a lot of great poetry and his contribution is still underestimated.

You are doing "hard stuff" on here and people, it seems, these days, are not good at that. This is perhaps a simplification but thinking is not high...

FB is useful but as too debates they are populist and simplistic.

Here you should eliminate anonymous and clearly scam comments as Jack does or used to do with moderation. You will never really get through to the "great unwashed", HD knows that....

Next you'll be running for Parliament. You could do worse but read the various editions of Faust first. I think Marlow was one of the early ones but there are others.

Has Jack given up his Blog(s)?

FB is a way to alert people to what you are doing here.

If you want intelligent comment etc though, you might find some on FB but there is a lot of what is essentially drivel on there.

But of course, again, it does have a great function if used in moderation.

8:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:13 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Thanks for that tip Gio. I've just been rereading Michael Henderson's The Log of a Superfluous Son, which is the only thing in NZ literature that tries to do a Joyce. It does a Conrad too, by describing a journey across a Pacific despoiled by American military machines towards an Asian heart of darkness...

Richard, have you seen Jack's new archive blog? It's got some Salt stuff on it, alas! I don't think he's given up his Mairangi Bay blog: I think he just blogs at a sensible rate. He has to hold down a teaching job, of course, and teaching certainly cut into my blogging last year...

9:55 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

PS Richard, do you remember who wrote this line:

'Time bursts into flame.'

10:07 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Re Henderson I have that but haven't read it, I'm reading an interesting NZ Novel that was banned: Tarzan Presley by Nigel Cox who sadly died in 2006. That book was banned by the Burroughs Estate - either to be republished here or anywhere else. In it Tarzan is brought up by Gorillas in NZ! He fights these huge wetas that can nearly kill the gorillas. Then he "becomes" Elivis.

The other thing re Cox is that he was in music bands and had the cultural interests also. But there is also the criticism he did of Stead, who then, after he died got his "revenge" with a story of a young man who critiqued an older man (Cox of Stead) and then eventually the older man outlived the younger and married his wife!

But Tarzan Presley if it isn't a NZ Ulysses is certainly original, and I think probably better or as good as anything by Stead. I don't know about Henderson or say Philip Mann etc

11:05 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

That was a bit irrelevant I suppose:
I've seen various of his Blogs. I hope he keeps on as it is very good.

I'm glad he got some old Salt stuff on - sure it is all a bit pre-political or "socially responsible" but it had an interesting place.

"Time bursts into flame."

Me? If so I probably took from somewhere else: unless I thought of it but I forget...

It's got that feel about it like say the vacuum caught fire: which is the kind of impossibility I like writing about.

Perhaps it was Transtromer, or one...it wasn't one of the lines of your 'Data Control'?

I know that Ashbery wrote, in a poem, in media res: 'Time farted.'!

11:12 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Scott, what was the name of the young man who wrote that poem about running up the hill and I think into or through a fire? I think you know him: one Sean?

Jack also knows him I think.

I was looking through some of the SALTS and Brief's and there is a lot of good writers and writing therein.

11:59 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I can answer that myself. Just looked through various including Jack's Brief index. It was Nathan McGregor in Brief 33. He also did some art in that.

12:39 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Ah Nathan! That text, and some of images, got quite a bit of attention from readers. I've lost touch with Nathan: I should make contact again.

I really recommend the Henderson: it's a wild ride, politically outspoken and linguistically inventive, and less dated today, I think, that a lot of the writing of the 'Big Smoke', countercultural era.

I've been pitching the idea of a volume called Seventy Great (but Neglected) Books from the South Pacific to Brett 'the boss' Cross: Henderson would certainly make list!

11:50 am  
Blogger Richard said...

I liked that thing I started looking back through the Briefs and Salt.

I submitted some poems to the beleagured Dr. I can understand the problems he has as I know that lecturers etc have to do a lot of marking etc It is amazing the amount that Jack get's done.

I certainly will look at Henderson's book.

For your 70 or 100 books I recommend also 'Tarzan Presley' by Nigel Cox.

Did you have a penchant for Graham Billing's books? I have a few ('Statues' is one) but I haven't read it. My mother had a list of the many books she read and she liked 'Forbush and the Penguins' and 'The Slipway' but 'Statues' has n.s.g beside it.

Is poetry included in this potential list?

Did you know the answer to who wrote: 'Time bursts into flame' yourself?

10:04 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

re Finnegan's Wake I think the only thing I ever read about that as such was 'Joysprick' by Anthony Burgess (the only book of his many books I have read by him). This inspired a long poem about 1992-3. I did read the biog of Joyce and have heard him reading 'Ana Livia Plurabelle' which I think would be a great way to get into FW. I must have another go at that huge work...In knew a fellow how had nearly gone mad trying to 'decipher' it etc but after 7 years he abandoned the project...

10:08 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I also had a look at the link or ref Giovanni posted: that looks interesting. I didn't have time to study it but Tiso's PhD looks very interesting. Does he know of Jack Ross's focus in e.g. EMO, and Nights and Days with Bruno etc EMO seems concerned with some of the issues and he also cross-references popular culture and film but this intersects with say Ovid or the 1001 nights, some Apollinaire, Dr. Dee(!) and so on.

Also his characters have either lost their memory or cant sleep!

I think those books by Jack were quite original: amazing in many ways. Well I reviewed three of Jack's books (this is not a quid pro quo, although it is hard to avoid some bias in this literary world...) I think they are worth being in the "neglected" list ( a special category of un-neglected neglected writing perhaps!

Talking of memory, as a teenager I read Spinoza's Ethics as I liked the way it was laid out (rather like a series of Euclidean theorems) and I understood it all. But more recently I couldn't make much progress. I recall reading Russell's book about philosophy...

Bill Direen has gone into some weired territories also and I have done my conversation with the Richard Taylors, etc...

Some of these interests are in Brunton's works such as 'Moonshine' and also that strange worker on the Internet once associated with the Language poets, that is Alan Sondheim (who seems to have disappeared)...

I must down load it a few pages at a time as I cant read screens very well for too long. As long as it's not too difficult.

Well, very impressive to have achieved a PhD in English and Philosophy - I always found philosophy and even still find literature difficult...

But the fact of Twitter and FB etc, the Internet itself, like previous technologies has radically changed the world, the way we interact. Simple things such as letter writing have gone and we relied a lot for our knowledge of so much about people on their letters and memoirs. Not all bad news though. Complex stuff...

11:05 pm  

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