“The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project” is a return, of sorts, to my literary roots. 

Having experimented for the last five years with motion tracking technology for telling stories and making poetry with my body in a performance medium, I found myself, in 2008, becoming fascinated with social media. 

It was a logical transition. My motion tracking pieces require frequent calibration of the four sensors, tweaking a testy DMX card for my robotic light, keeping batteries charged in two alien-looking trackers, constant updating skills in Ableton Live, Module 8, and propriety motion tracking software, programming the MIDI so that the PC and Mac can exchange media, and of course, conceptualizing and scripting the work.  For the last year I have worked alone in my windowless basement lab.  The social animal that I am, it stands to reason that I would naturally gravitate, at some point, to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Academe, YouTube, and other media that connect people, ideas, and text.

I took to social media like the proverbial duck to water.  To go deeper than the surface of participating in them, however, I began teaching them to my students in the Digital Technology and Culture Program at Washington State University Vancouver and, later, to businesses and individuals in workshops co-sponsored by the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.  Doing so helped me learn about their individual strengths, weaknesses, and quirks and to gain an understanding about ways to push the envelope on those that interested me most. 

Enter Twitter.  During that year Twitter emerged as the darling of mass media––and not without reason:  The idea that we can succinctly state what we are doing at any given time in 140 characters or less is a seductive quality for those of us living in this fast-paced dash we call daily life in 21st Century.  It is this feature of Twitter that compelled me to begin penning the 24 pieces that comprise “The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project.”

Also driving me was the fact that in comparison to other technologies used to create electronic literature––what we who produce it call “elit”––Twitter is pretty simple to use.  It does not require that artists learn to code or suss out a GUI HTML editor in order to make a webtext, to master Flash or After Effects to make an animated text, to have access to Final Cut in order to make a video piece.  And it sure as hell does not need a DMX card.  All that is required beyond a computer is an idea and the ability to express that idea within 140 characters or less. 

Along with these qualities, Twitter spoke to my love of short fiction.  While a teenager I discovered microfiction through Richard Brautigan’s short piece, “Scarlatti Tilt,” a work that tells the story of a woman so frustrated with her life that she commits a murder.  That anyone could relate such emotion, characterization, and conflict in 34 words was amazing and eventually lured me in to trying my own hand at it.  My elit work, “Fallow Field” (2004), though considerably longer at a page and a half, was an attempt at short fiction. 

It took the discipline of Twitter and the tyranny of the 140 character rule to force me to cut stories to the bone.  I have attempted to do so without utilizing much in the way of abbreviations, so common to Twitter but that make some tweets difficult to read and resembling a foreign tongue to those unfamiliar with it.  Where possible I experimented with omitting punctuation, like quotation marks and non-essential commas.  I suspect that social media is, indeed, influencing English usage greatly in this regard––I see evidence of it everyday in my students’ writing.  With the space I am allowed, I have tried to achieve what Brautigan did so elegantly in his work over 30 years ago:  build conflict, create character presence, offer catharsis and surprise––and I hope capture for those of us living today a sense of what it is like to live in the 21st Century.

They say people don’t read anymore.  They say that people especially don’t read fiction anymore.  It is the goal that “The 24-Hr. Micro-Elit Project,” with its brevity and publication style, will entice folks to ignore this conventional wisdom and do read.  More importantly, however, it aims at getting people to read and write their own short literary pieces on Twitter.  This is why I have invited the audience to respond to my work or produce their own.  Publishing 24 stories over a 24 hour period and staying online live on chat, though gimmicky, is actually an attempt on my part to reach a broad audience over all time zones and to offer encouragement to others who want to write and publish.


Dene Grigar’s Artist Statement