Monday, June 15, 2009

From Tweets to Narrative.

Images from Iran Many new photos by Farad Rajabali, who is doing an extraordinary job.

I've been following news from Iran, obsessively. I say "news;" what I mean, are Tweets. Primarily from #iranelection, and #persiankiwi. An endless scroll of fragments, often repeated, passed on from one source to another, information picked up from readers in other parts of Iran, other parts of the world, filtered through commercial media, recycled through Tweeter.

The compulsion to keep watching is driven by two needs, the desire to "know what happens next," and to tie the fragments together, to discern their connection, not at all unlike reading a book. The affective and cognitive components are inseparable: each serves to give form to the other. Raw emotion is profoundly disturbing, unsettling, creates a desire to know, to understand what those feelings are about, how they are connected to what is happening, what they mean.

The reality... that is, the fragments of information, the strings of words, the anguish and wonder they evoke, resist, powerfully resist, assimilation into narrative. The story made to package what is happening--out there, and in us as we observe and react, enhances the sense of coherence, prepares the experience for retelling, for remembering, while losing in something like proportionate measure what gives the fragments their immediacy, their feel of reality. An impossible trade-off, because the reality is unendurable: a fragmentation that penetrates and tears apart our sense of a coherent Self, and yet--as long as we remain immersed in the unfolding of events--the narrative--any narrative--has the feel of illusion, of a lie.

I read the streaming Tweets, the fragmented, unassimilable Reality, and feel myself in the basic workshop of the creative imagination, a chaos of raw materials, bits and pieces--awkwardly working them over with an array of tools I know I will never master, uncertain who or what is being worked over, or who or what is agent.


  1. This is the first time I've heard of an interesting use for Twitter - will follow this up.

  2. Tweeter is THE primary source of information coming out of Iran.

  3. Jacob - I am sooo slow with the technology - I need help - from people like you!

  4. Eh what? And you can make that fabuluous bug-to-human language camera? Love the talking bugs!