Monday, May 28, 2012

Tweeting outside the... boxes?

Jennifer Egan wrote a short story that she is disseminating in installments of tweets. It's called "Black Box." She uses twitter as the format for a voice inherent in her protagonist, which in turn becomes "didactic" and reflective after each individual action. I'm interested in her idea to use twitter as the voice of a heroine because I tend to think the voice of twitter is, in general, quite alienating. And Egan acknowledges this with the confession that her protagonist's voice is didactic, paternalistic, and patronizing.

The heroine is a "beauty" who involves herself in matters of terrorism and sacrifices herself for her country without asking for "payment" in return. Egan says the heroine keeps reminding herself she doesn't take payment because she doesn't want to feel like a prostitute for sleeping with all these men in order to save the country from terrorism. Egan likens this sort of sacrificial "new heroism" to a military mentality, where you think outside to the collective rather than just to your individual sacrifices. But she admits that as the story continues, the new heroism has an especial crudeness to it, that there is a crudeness in the collective mentality... just like there is to the collective twitter mentality.

Another thought. A "Black Box" is defined by wikipedia as "a device, system or object which can be viewed solely in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics without any knowledge of its internal workings, that is, its implementation is 'opaque.'" Twitter is a black box; hardly any of its inner workings are up for inspection. People offer little windows into their lives in installments they deem necessary, appealing, meta, ironic, funny, cool, etc. But the readers don't have lines to read between, they have full sentences often pejorative or ambiguous in nature.

Wikipedia went on to say that "the opposite of a black box is a system where the inner components or logic are available for inspection, which is sometimes known as a white box, a glass box, or a clear box." Of course, I thought of the glass ceiling. With the glass ceiling, women can see higher positions but cannot reach them. When you're in the glass box of the corporate world, most of the system is completely open for inspection. On twitter, women use the black box to their advantage. Twitter is not and never will be an inherent society of any type, so each person is free to impose her own. I think this is a very far-reaching way to explain why women comedians are having such success on twitter right now when it was virtually impossible for them to gain exposure before. The method of using the black box to circumvent the existence of the glass one.

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