PROJECT DIARY, PT. 1, APRIL WHATEVER, 2010: Currently typing notes from E-Rhetoric class, second-to-last of semester. Exigence: an imperfection in one's life characterized by a symbolic action. Bear in mind: Project is meant to characterize the rhetorical situation of an array of tweets by a focus, whether it be on exigence, ethos, or some other element of traditional rhetoric. Keep commentary interpretive and analytical.

personal notes: Last week's inability to get up and head to class (due to a screwed-up sleep schedule punctuated by random illness) has been particularly regrettable, since this feels like a course I could've really connected with. Not that I expect it'll hurt my final project -- last week also showed that I have a knack for putting out amazing work when the chips are down -- but it would have been fantastic to participate more in class. Maybe next semester, when I get my driver's license (and a car to use it with).

Unlike most other classroom participants, I have hell of Twitter experiences which can be drawn upon to a distinct and clear advantage. I feel like I could whip up a PowerPoint presentation about this material in the span of twenty minutes, but this comes at the cost of having most of my perceptions about Twitter's rhetorical situation already defined for me. Remember to ground arguments with amazing sources. Cite page numbers, even!

So, the first thing needed is to choose some people to focus on. I have a sizable suite of quirky celebs, creative Internet types, crazy furries, and random dudes to pick from. Others may choose Roger Ebert or Conan O'Brien; I have others.

People to report on (just as examples):

~Off-the-cuff notes section:~ This is what I think of Twitter! Time to arrange my thoughts in a simplistic fashion, and blow everyone's minds with my perceptive reasoning even at this early stage. Now would definitely be a time to note that these self-referential monologues will be left on the wiki in one form or another, though I may drop them into a separate page for the sake of professionalism and clarity. At this point I've read up to part 10 of the Sagolla book (author's name spellchecked via a glance at a neighbor's book), with the rest to follow soon; this has given me the superhuman ability to identify tweets by certain characteristics, though I can't recall any off the top of my head. I'll consult my Kindle edition sometime between now and 10 minutes before the final presentation to give myself some perspective.

PROJECT DIARY, PT. 2, PROBABLY ALMOST MAY NOW: Prof. Morgan just approached me as I shamefully walked into class five minutes late! Final is May 5th, 2010, which I know is a week or so from the time of this entry. I don't have to present, since I'm working alone -- which takes away a fair amount of the pressure this project can exert on my rugged frame, but comes at the cost of not getting to display my spectacular insights to those in this class who clearly have better things to do than develop a certain level of savvy in relation to Internet topics. Having just delivered a functional prototype of Battleship for my Computer Science class, a swank presentation about Electronic Arts to Intro to Business, and a brilliant watercolor piece to Visual Foundations I, this project is practically the only thing left for me to blow out of the effin' water this semester.

Sagolla book has been finished, though I've neglected to bring elements of it into the project just yet. In fact, if you asked me right now to come up with one concise point the book made, I would shuffle uncomfortably in my chair until you got the message and moved on to some other topic. I'll be remedying this over the course of the next week. I've decided to continue my focus on ethos (character), since this is the topic that fascinates me the most; ProWebPresenceProject illuminated for me the idea that anyone with a creative presence on the Internet has a public identity to maintain, in order to ensure that he or she is seen as having their desired level of credibility. In this sense, Twitter can serve as a massive benefit.

Twitter is often referred to as a "microblog", but can also be perceived as an alternative to instant messaging. Imagine you found a brilliant burrito place in your immediate vicinity, and decided you had to spread the word to all your friends and help this business you've decided you love. Before Twitter, your course of action was to either call or instant-message your friends individually, or send out a single e-mail to a group of friends (which many people don't check very frequently). Now, you can just issue a public update to your Twitter account: "ATTENTION, ALBANY RESIDENTS: Bros Tacos, on the corner of Morris and Ontario, serves bombtastic mission-style burritos at brilliant prices." (example: Greenspeak.) Suddenly, there it is, out in the open for everyone (or every one of your followers) to see, and thanks to the immediacy of the format, you can tweet this discovery from your cell phone at the place itself, while waiting for your food to cook!

This sounds like a digression about the wonders of technology, but it's leading to a point, and that point is this: Where in other formats you would be required to contact an array of specific people, Twitter has the benefit of being only as public as you want it to be. Topics that were once only kept in private communication archives attached to AOL Instant Messenger accounts are now freely available to be looked at anywhere. On the Internet, it's difficult to strike up a conversation with many professionals, since they typically cannot be readily contacted for a friendly chat unless you either already know them personally or do something noteworthy that gains their attention. If that professional wants to communicate with his or her fanbase, their options are limited; they can put up a blog, send out an e-mail to a mailing list, or send out a tweet and let everyone know what they're up to. Because the format has a certain level of personal communication to it, it gives the impression that he or she is initiating a dialogue with their fans, and even allows those fans to message them right back.

PROJECT DIARY PT. 3, UH (glances) MAY 3RD, 1:54 AM: From today forward, my schoolwork will be devoted exclusively to this project until the instant everybody's reports are read.

PROJECT DIARY PT. 4, MAY 3RD, 4:39 AM: My keyboard spontaneously disintegrated in front of me! The loaner from my roommate appears to be clad in all manner of toxic substances, but the project must rage on. Let's discuss, now, the 'form' of the tweet.

general form:

Thanks to the technological limitations of SMS services, tweets take up 140 characters of the 160 available in a standard text message; the remaining characters are taken up by usernames and possibly other metadata. If you use the website or a Twitter application on your computer/handheld computing device, however, you can send more data along with your tweet. This is typically used to create a link to someone you've decided to respond to, if your tweet contains a response (example here, 'in reply to tabbiewolf'), which contributes nicely to the notion that Twitter can be used not just to update, but to converse. Websites exist to artificially extend this limit (TwitLonger is an example), but though they can occasionally have 'legitimate' uses -- the natural compactness of many Asian languages makes it a valuable resource when translating tweets that were 140 characters long in their native language (example) -- they are rarely used as such.

But why? Well, it requires you to click a separate link to read more, and that's a pretty big turnoff if you want your message to be read by an audience on a website typically suited to absorbing information in microblog-formatted messages. I am certain, however, that even if Twitter messages could be 250+ characters long, the format itself would suffer immensely! Twitter's 140-character limit does more than encourage brevity in communicating concepts; it also caters to an audience's need to see the current status of a person without being hindered by superfluous language or the overwrought restatement of key issues. "You. Okay, now you. You next. Oh, you installed Ubuntu? How sad." This rapid-fire effect enables followers to follow more accounts, and stay current with a larger amount of people in a smaller frame of time. Brevity creates a social sphere.


Criticism of Twitter seems to be focused on the notion that anyone involved in updating a throng of followers on the dull minutiae that defines one's life is clearly incredibly vain and cynical, if only because they assume that people will read these updates to begin with. To someone like me on the inside, this feels like a shortsighted and poorly-researched criticism! It either assumes that no single piece of English under 140 characters is worth reading on its own, that people with Twitter accounts have nothing to write about other than bland minutiae, or that certain minutiae isn't made either exciting or worth reading when written by someone you genuinely care about.

Now, granted, there's a line to be drawn; if someone tweets from the bathroom about what certain orifices are up to, for instance, it's common practice to instantly consider them dead to you! But otherwise, two examples come to mind. The first is something a friend said a while ago which, while innocuous to the outsider, initiated a conversation that helped me learn more about her:

TabbieWolf educates me on the characteristics of good ice cream.
In this conversation, I'm the one with a face.
It was a small interaction, but I feel like I know her slightly better as a result of it. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, this is what the practice of 'getting to know somebody' is all about: small conversations like these, about small, inconsequential things. Here I was taking an active role, but most Twitter communication is passive; you absorb information from your followers and only respond to what you consider necessary. Noteworthy about this is how every message in this sequence is available to the general public at a moment's notice; from this, you can glean the idea that she and I are acquainted, though in the context of Twitter, conversations like this are also appropriate between total strangers.

The other example -- and this is an extreme one, but it represents a larger phenomenon -- is from the one and only @commanderkitty. His account reflects a series of goings-on in the made-up world of a fictional character where cartoon animals engage in massive space-battles. His account is updated sporadically, and the relevance of each individual entry can occasionally be called into question, but it serves two purposes. The first is to act as a notification for all his followers that a new update to his webcomic is available to be read. The second is to introduce a sequential narrative through the act of notification; in order to determine exactly what one of his tweets refers to, they must head over to the corresponding strip. The fact that the notifications are presented as an inner monologue is key; it gives us further insight to the character's motivation and gives us a window into his own little world. What's important to note, here, is that this situation is not exclusive to this fictional character (or even just to fictional characters alone), but to every person you follow on Twitter. Following someone gives you small snippets of their way of thinking, and helps complete an image of them in your mind; in this sense, Twitter accounts host the characters in our lives.


1) tie this in to ethos (credibility) re: "professional web presence" of individuals and creative types
2) glance through sagolla book a second time, pick out rhetorical themes to mention
3) reread chapter 9 and accentuate conclusions from there
4) throw all personal journal stuff on separate wiki page for people to browse for entertainment purposes
5) do not expect anyone to actually click on the link formed by item 4
6) rehearse presentation, in between studying for wednesday's computer science final
7) destroy classmates with the awesome power of english.
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