In the summer of 2001, I was sitting in a computer lab on the UIUC campus with my fellow Web Design for Libraries & Organizations students when someone piped up with a question: “Do you know what a ‘blog’ is?”
The response was mixed.
Eleven years later, “blog” is obviously a household word. As is “social network,” which I’m not sure I knew in 2001–if it even existed then since Facebook wasn’t around until 2004.
Three years before Facebook, in the fall of 2001, Jennifer Egan published the novel Look at Me in which a fashion model who has had reconstructive surgery after a disfiguring accident is invited to participate in a very Facebook-like project. The book explores identity in a media saturated world in a way that feels more relevant now than it did in 2001. I found the book fascinating when I read it earlier this year. I wonder what I would have thought of her version of social media if I would have read it in 2001.
It seems that Jennifer Egan still has an interest in social media. Check out her latest short story written in tweets as part of the Twitter Fiction Festival. It might seem odd to tweet a story or try to put any kind of fiction into 140 characters, but people are doing some very interesting things with the medium. Plus, it’s participatory. You can join in with a hashtag. I love it. :)
You can listen to Jennifer Egan talk more about the project on MPR here. Tangentially, even if you’re not buying Twitter Fiction as a thing, consider what Egan said about empathy and judgment on Talking Volumes last year. Seems to fall right in with this lovely headline: Reading fiction ‘improves empathy’ study finds.
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