When writing this blog I have—so far—tried to avoid short note-like thoughts, or simple ‘stamp collecting’ reposts of links and information already available on other sites and blogs. The conscious rational for this has been—at least in part—that, not functioning in an academic context, I am unlikely to have any papers or books published anytime soon; and therefore, it is important to me that this blog stand up as ‘a work in itself’. This choice of phrase also—I think—points toward a second probably reason: my background as artist, which—for me at least—seems to make it an irresistible temptation to think of all production in terms ‘the work’, which therefore then demands a certain level of substance and consistency in order to function as such. This doesn’t mean finished or complete, in fact, it is central to the form and purpose of this blog that it remain plastic, malleable and a ‘work in progress’—yet work [in progress] it remains, and as such requires a certain aesthetic ‘rightness’ (the definition of which will remain ambiguous, so as to leave space for the potential of the pathological).
This decision about the focus of this blog then, of course, appears to create a particular function for Twitter: a place for links, note-like thoughts, and immediate dialog. However: a) despite myself, I still get entangled in having tweets function with a phrased ‘rightness’ (they don’t escape being ‘works’), and b) 140 characters is often just not enough to say many things that combine both being worth saying and relative complexity (although this does make for an interesting discipline).
I have an interest in the way contingent technical forms can ‘go beyond themselves’ and shape what can-or-can’t-be-done, and what can-or-can’t-be-said.
The technical 140 Twitter character limit was itself born of a similarly technical 160 character limit on SMS messages—in order that, in the early days, Twitter could ‘piggyback’ on the popularity and ubiquity of this service (with the remaining 20 characters being reserved for the Twitter username). Arguably Twitter has little need for the SMS service today, but, as is the nature of evolved systems, once it’s there and built upon, you’re stuck with it (unless it, and everything built upon it, becomes redundant). Nobody responsible for creating the SMS standard anticipated Twitter, yet their decision about what length a brief informal message should be, directly produced the technological reality that in turn formed a lower character limit for Twitter. Now, whilst I would expect that the 160 character SMS limit also has its own technical ‘ground’, it must in part be the length it is because that was considered, by its designers, to be an ‘ideal’ for this particular kind of communication.
Having used Twitter for a while now, I feel confident in saying that there is a fundamental difference between what—and how—you can communicate in 140 characters as opposed to 160. An analogy would be the disproportionate difference a change in financial income makes, when it is from earning at a level that just covers basic needs, to earning at any amount above this (until you find more expensive ‘basic needs’, of course).
An idle speculation that emerges is: what would the ‘tweet-o-sphere’ look like if the original technical limitation of the SMS platform had been different (or was never based on SMS)?
A practical question identified is: do I require some other platform in between Twitter and this blog (or to change my usage of this blog)?
A formal aesthetic result (‘the work’) is: an attempt, by myself earlier today, to explain via Twitter the Lacanian concepts of the Real, the Symbolic and the Imaginary, in relation to Mark Fisher’s notion of ‘Capitalist Realism’. Although there was some discussion afterwards, my basic explication (I feel I am rather pushing the meaning of that work here) was 10 tweets long.
The tweet that started it all was:
Central to the efficacy of #CapitalistRealism is its genuine—objective—symbolic existence; in Lacanian terms, that’s a tough nut to crack…
Which prompted a response:
Resulting in those 10 tweets:
@AxisofElvis Very crudely, in the Lacanian triad: Real-Symbolic-Imaginary—the Real = the original trauma engendered by the failure of the…
@AxisofElvis …Symbolic order to ever fully represent either itself or the inaccessible Real. Imaginary = inner space of self-identification…
@AxisofElvis …the Imaginary has limited efficacy unless it can be translated into the social realm of the Symbolic—think of the derision…
@AxisofElvis …often provoked by the figure of the ‘Goth’ or ‘Wigger’ (at least, in part, the result of a mismatch between Imaginary…
@AxisofElvis …self-identification and the social Symbolic order). The Symbolic order structures social relations and social meaning, and so…
@AxisofElvis …in Capitalist Realism apropos of Gerald Ratner—(almost) everyone knew the jewellery he sold was ‘crap’, but when he publicly…
@AxisofElvis …admitted this to the ‘big Other’—and thus inscribed it within the Symbolic order—he lost his job & the company lost millions.
@AxisofElvis …as—viewed through a Lacanian ontology—it requires a ‘cracking’ of the Symbolic order itself.
In order to fit this explanation to the 140 character discipline, I wrote it out tweet-by-tweet (using Twitter’s character counter) and then cut and paste it into a text editor, structuring the breaks where they more-or-less best fitted the sense being conveyed. I then cut and paste it back into Twitter and tweeted it consecutively, leaving no gaps for a reply, until the explanation cycle was finished.
I then swiftly apologised in advance, in case ‘say more …’ hadn’t really meant that much more. There then followed a more conversational form, but one in which the structural properties of the technological medium were still highly apparent.
Many questions remain (and answers, thoughts, and further questions are always welcome):
- Does my explanation of Lacan ‘work’ (both in terms of its theoretical accuracy, and in its aesthetic form)?
- Aside from the obvious social immediacy of Twitter, what might be gained through subordination to technical (and aesthetic) form?
- To what extent might subordination to an aesthetic sensibility relate to extrinsic factors, and to when might it be considered pathological?