Friday, February 20, 2009
Ex Machina: The Birth of the Aphoritter
Increasingly I experience the mundane circumstances in which I, like everyone, am enmeshed as a mechanism of exponentially increasing complexity designed to produce less and less. If that's the tendency of our culture, the best thing I can think of to do is to subvert it by making unplanned use of it.
Lately I've been diddling with Twitter. For those unaware of it, Twitter is not my next-door neighbor, at least not exactly: it's a messaging or social networking mechanism that limits its users' messages to 140 characters. A user is invited, in that brief space, to answer the continuous question "What are you doing?" In increasing numbers, people are doing just that.
Not being terribly interested in answering that question straightforwardly (which logically would lead to the continual reply "Answering this question") I first ignored Twitter, not caring much for 99.9% of what I encountered there (and immediately disliking its silly name). Who would be interested in knowing that right now I am washing the dishes; right now I am visiting the toilet?
But Twitter kept popping up, in one guise or another, on my computer screen. It wouldn't go away. In the end, to make a long story short, it occurred to me, as it probably has occurred to many others, that Twitter might function best not as a tool of communication but as a sort of journal of ideas. I can access it quickly from pretty much anywhere (via my cellphone if I want), write something very brief (which if I'm using my cellphone is about all I want to do), mark it as a favorite, and it's saved. I began using Twitter that way, and rather quickly I realized its real potential for my subversive purposes: Twitter can be an aphorism generating machine. Attempt to say something free-standing and significant in the space of 140 characters, and you are very quickly in the domain of the aphorism.
Obviously, there are other ways to create aphorisms. One could simply buy a notebook and a pencil. But, for whatever reason, nothing in my circumstances was leading me that way. Twitter came and took me by the collar. What could I do but obey--and disobey?
For me, this is not so much a "less as more" but a "less as other" practice. I have invented a technique for myself, the production of the aphoritter (the term "twitterism" doesn't work well for me, being too cutesy and too etymologically vague; I have a feeling that a "twitterism" exists, but is something quite different from what I'm interested in). I make no claim to originality in this: no doubt others elsewhere are reaching or have reached the same conclusion. But it does give me some pleasure to find my way into unexpected territory via the (to me) most utterly unexpected of means.