Sharing Culture, One Tweet At A Time

The Twitter Web site is displayed on a mobile phone near Parliament  in London. i i
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
The Twitter Web site is displayed on a mobile phone near Parliament  in London.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Twitter, which enables the sharing of short, 140-character messages, has moved on from sharing small personal stories to sharing culture.

Last winter, there was a quasi-Shakespeare performance, The Twitter of the Shrew; then, a commission from London's Royal Opera for fans to tweet the lyrics for twit-arias.

Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin, two University of Chicago students, have written Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less, which will be published in January.

"We have things from The Iliad, The Odyssey or Shakespeare, things that are indisputable classics of the Western tradition, to Twilight, which is at least a classic to some people," Rensin says.

And then there is college professor Chindu Sreedharan, who is retelling the Mahabarata, an 18-volume, 8th century Hindu epic.

"I could keep telling that story on Twitter for the whole of my lifetime and still not finish it," he says.

Sreedharan is condensing the work, hoping it will only take a few months.

Maureen Evans works in an area that lends itself to short form: recipes.

A poet, Evans tells Linda Wertheimer that taking a recipe down to essentials is a bit like writing a poem.

"I like to see what I can do with language and just how irreducible I can make a message while still having it be clear to other people," she says. "Yeah, recipes and poetry, food and poetry are things that are more than the sum of their parts; they're subjects that inspire people in ways beyond the practical."

Bill Wasik, an editor at Harper's Magazine and author of And Then There's This, a book about Internet culture, likes the recipes, but he warns that like other things on the Internet, Twitter's time with us may be brief.

"The idea of Twitter is it's a giant party and you can have as many conversations at the same time as you want with however many people you want, and you essentially sit there and let all the conversation wash over you," he says. "It's very emblematic of the age. Whether it's going to stick around forever, I'm still unconvinced."

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