Rebellious storytelling?

This blog deals with the book Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter (2009), by Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin, and how we should interpret the book as a form of transmedia storytelling.

As the title explains, this book contains retellings of classic (and less classic) world literature, retold through twenty tweets or less. It contains books such as Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (1915), Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856), but also modern bestsellers such as the Harry Potter series (1997-2007) and The Da Vinci Code (2003).

Let’s look at some quotes. The irony is undeniable.

From Paradise Lost: ‘OH MY GOD I’M IN HELL’, and ‘Sitting on our asses waiting from an apology from G-d isn’t exactly renegade. Pussies.’[1]

From The Metamorphosis: ‘I seem to have transformed into a large bug. Has this ever happened to any of you? No solution on Web MD.’[2]

From Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen: ‘Oh shit, some rich young gentlemen just showed up. Score!’[3]

Twitterature is a form of what media scholar Henry Jenkins calls ‘transmedia storytelling’:

Transmedia storytelling practices may expand the potential market for a property by creating different points of entry for different audience segments (…) the strategy may work to draw viewers who are comfortable in a particular medium to experiment with alternative media platforms (as in the development of a Desperate Housewives game designed to attract older female consumers into gaming). [4]

We could interpret Twitterature as the bait and the true, unadulterated classic books as the fish that is being caught with the bait. A young tweeter can read Pride and Prejudice in twenty tweets, have the time of his or her life and then decide to go and read the original. But were all these tweet adaptations primarily made to make people go and read the book? That is, of course, very hard to believe.

Twitterature evokes a scent of rebellion, as if the authors wanted to say: look at how we ridicule these elitist classic novels and make more money and gather more fame than some of the original authors, Kafka for example, did during their lifetime. But according to social media scientist Pamela Ingleton, this is an illusion:

We see how Aciman and Rensin’s pet project performs rebellion against and subversion of some kind of assumed, legitimate “literariness” in order to undermine the system, but in the end does no more than reaffirm it. Twitterature is not operating at the margins of the cultural sphere; in fact, as a published book, it is operating at its centre.[5]

Even though Twitterature only could have been written in the digital age, it still is nothing new. It is merely a corollary of postmodern fiction, where ‘a hyper-aware intertextuality becomes a playground of “adaptation, translation, parody, pastiche, imitation, and other kinds of transformation.’’’[6]

Made by Jut, 26-5-2013



Aciman, Alexander & Rensin, Emmett. (2009) Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter. New York: Penguin Books.

Jenkins, Henry. (March 22, 2007) ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’, (May 2013)

Ingleton, Pamela. (2012) ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Twitterature? Reading and Theorizing ‘Print’ Technologies in the Age of Social Media’, Technoculture vol. 2. (May 2013)

[1] Aciman & Rensin 2009: 1.

[2] Aciman & Rensin 2009: 3.

[3] Aciman & Rensin 2009: 91.

TomTom and ARIA

In this blog I will analyze the arrival of the TomTom automotive navigation system by making use of Hans van Driels’ ARIA model and by showing how the aspect of remediation plays a large part in the gradual acceptance of new technology.

ARIA is an abridgement of Amazement, Resistance, Imitation and Authenticity. These four concepts represent the four chronological stages human beings go through when they are being confronted with new technology. [1]

     A: Before the TomTom, everyone who wanted to travel someplace where they had never travelled before, had to make use of a map or instructions by someone who did know the way to the intended destination. With the introduction of the TomTom, nobody needed to worry any longer when stepping into a car to drive to an unknown place in an unknown country. This newfound ease went hand in hand with wonder and awe.

     R: Still, such a thoroughly new device evokes resistance. People object to the idea of having to look at a screen while the focus should be on the road ahead of you, or they make the assumption that too much virtual help will make you forget how to actually use a real map. Also, the TomTom isn’t a flawless machine. It can still send you in the wrong direction.

     I: But the medium isn’t entirely new. On the screen of the TomTom a road map is visible, admittedly virtually, but it remains a road map. The device also offers the option to compose your personal address book, the same as you would with a paper notebook.

A: More and more, the new medium gradually develops its own identity, making people less and less resistant and acknowledging its many merits: the TomTom tells you the weather forecast, it bleeps when you are approaching a speed camera. It even tells us how much you  pay for gasoline in the nearest gas station.

In her article Hidden Practice (2009), cultural scientist Ann-Sophie Lehmann poses the question if the recycling of certain medium specific aspects in a new medium (something we call ‘remediation’[2]) doesn’t hinder the development of that new medium, in this case the TomTom.[3] But people under the age of 25, which we call ‘digital natives’[4], are raised watching at and using screens. These digital natives process information completely different than non digital natives. They aren’t surprised at all by the latest, dazzling developments in the technological domain. The really young ones wouldn’t even know what is remediated where or what. So with the passing of time and the disappearance of outmoded generations, this problem solves itself.

Made by Jut, 28-4-2013


Lehmann, Ann-Sophie. (2009) ‘Hidden Practice: Artists’ Working Spaces, Tools and Materials in the Digital Domain’, in Marianne van den Boomen (eds). Digital Material. Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: pp. 267-281.

Taylor, Pamela G. & Carpenter II, Stephen B. (2007) ‘Mediating Art Education: Digital Kids, Art, and Technology’, in Visual Arts Research, vol. 33, no. 2: pp. 84-95.

Lecture. Digital Art & Culture: ‘Making & morphing’. Dr. M. Stevens & MA L. Toussaint. (11-4-2013) Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. TvA 1.0.02.

[1] ‘Making and morphing’, 11-4-2013, M. Stevens & L. Toussaint.

[2] ‘Making and morphing’, 11-4-2013, M. Stevens & L. Toussaint.

[3] Lehmann 2009: 275.

[4] Taylor & Carpenter II, 2007: 84.