Thursday, 27 October 2011

Media, Medium, Mediate

If the Medium is the Message, and the medium is Twitter, does that mean the message is “Tweet?”
Marshall McLuhan, the incredibly influential media theorist, said “the medium is the message.” What  he was saying was the way media like Twitter constrict our messages to 140 characters (spaces included) shapes both the way we create our messages (condensing our regular speech to fit 140 characters) and the way we come to understand our world in general (how many CreCommers are starting to think in Twitter posts?).

Case in point:

Here’s a writer our Creative Writing instructor, Karen Press, showed us. He writes SHORT stories in 140 characters. When I first saw his Twitter roll I thought no way can this guy make any kind of impact in that small of space. No links. No videos. No pictures (because we all know they’re worth a 1000 words).

It was like he was cutting all the junk, all the superficial niceties out of his story and just leaving the bones. You fill in the blanks.

He calls them “twisters.” He says he’s written thousands.

Reading his feed got me thinking about how though a medium like Twitter can tempt you into monosyllabic ‘What’s happening?’ answers, it can also force you to rise to the challenge of 140 characters. If every letter counted, what would you write?

I think what he’s doing is looking for shock value. In his posts there’s a place-setting opening line. Maybe another. And then he writes something unexpected – often something that is so ordinary that it startles me into a giggle.

(Though it’s not hard to do that.)

Means, not the End
Now I don’t want to give the impression that Arjun Basu is the be all and end all of creative short fiction. Clearly there are some of his stories that I enjoy more than others. There’s other still that I don’t get at all. I just needed an example of how media like Twitter, FaceBook posts, and text messages can be used in unintended ways to great effect.

Feel free to disagree with me on this.

But still on Basu…
Where does he find the time to write all these posts? He’ll write six, seven, eight stories a day. And it takes most of us first year CreComm students hours to cut out 50 words from our writing only to realize we just wrote 49 more.

He must think in Twitter posts. (Wink wink McLuhan.) But how is he at carrying on a conversation?

Karen Press, I mentioned her, told us to write a story in under 500 words. It had to have a beginning, middle and end. I think I got mine to around 200 words.

I wrote about my dog.

If you’re thinking of trying your hand at REALLY, REALLY, REALLY short story writing here’s a tip from Fred Stenson: ask yourself what’s the latest this story can start? And, what’s the earliest this story can end.

Rarely do you want to be with your character when he wakes up in the morning. At least, that’s what Stenson says.

Marshall McLuhan
Fun Fact
Did you know Marshall McLuhan was raised in Winnipeg?

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