NOTE: You're Cott Mail is taking a short break for Memorial Day weekend and will return on Tuesday, May 31. 


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Twitter as a performance art platform

Technology in the Arts blog, 5/25/11

Creative Time has commissioned a series of Twitter performances that expands the definition of performance art.  These pieces, the first commissioned works of their kind, will explore the intersection of real places and in-person interactions with virtual spaces and digital conversations.  Says Tweet curator Shane Brennan, "One only has to look at the role of social media in organizing and documenting the popular revolutions that have swept across Northern Africa and the Middle East in recent months to see how [the physical and virtual] worlds are inextricably connected." Brennan explains that this project is a first step in claiming this new virtual public space as a space for art.  On May 25, social media artist Man Bartlett will spend 24 hours in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan asking Twitter followers, "Where have you been?" and people in the Port Authority, "Where are you going?" These simple questions are meant to open up conversations, both virtual and in-person, about memory and geography.  Later this summer, artists David Horovitz and Jill Magrid will embark on their own works probing the intersection of physical and virtual worlds. Horovitz will travel the distance of the first transcontinental telegraph sent in 1861 from San Francisco to Washington, DC to delve into the question, "What has been lost in the elimination of a message's physical journey?" Jill Magrid's work will involve sharing her own personal security measures. Brennan concedes that yes, Twitter might be a short-lived technology, here today and gone tomorrow. Nevertheless, he asserts that "right now it's such a widespread and interesting platform that it's worth taking notice of, and it's worth supporting cultural activity with it."


In Singapore, incorporating audience Tweets into a live theater performance

Today [Singapore], 5/17/11

In Malaysian theatre company Five Arts Centre's offering for the Singapore Arts Festival, audiences are encouraged to participate in a reading performance of the transcripts of the historical Baling Talks, a historic meeting among Singapore's Chief Minister Marshall, Malayan Chief Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Communist Party of Malaya's Chin Peng.  Singapore and Malaysian performers -- a motley bunch including a sociologist, a playwright, a theatre actress, a political blogger, a film-maker and a Malaysian Member of Parliament -- will be reading the entire transcript. Each of them will at some point "take on" the roles of any of the three protagonists.   Aside from the option of volunteering to read, audiences can also tweet their reactions, which will be projected on a live Twitter wall and can be tracked online via the #baling hash tag.  You could say it's Baling Talks v2.0. "It was a huge media spectacle in 1955 and a big 'what if' moment," said creative director Mark Teh, who added that shortly after the talks, Marshall and Tunku Abdul went to England separately to discuss the future of Singapore and Malaya.  The 1955 Baling Talks had been previously staged in Kuala Lumpur as a piece of physical theatre in 2005 and at the Emergency Festival in 2008.


The world's first piece of music composed from Twitter posts

The Telegraph [UK], 5/14/11

The world's first piece of music composed using information posted on the social networking site Twitter has been created. The Twinthesis project used a computer programme to turn posts made by users on Twitter into sounds.  Each character was given its own distinctive tone, so as the computer read through each Tweet on the public feed, it produced a series of sounds.  The result is "symphony" of high pitched bleeps and deeper humming, which reveals the sound of Twitter.  Music technology student Sam Harman, from Bournemouth University, developed the system as part of his undergraduate degree. The computer accesses the Twitter feed every 30 seconds and selects the top 20 tweets.  "The system selects one of the characters from the first 20 tweets at random and repeats it to produce a kind of rhythm," explained Mr Harman. "It can then go through the tweets a character at a time to produce a sort of melody.  "In time I hope we could get to the stage where it could pull data off Twitter at more than 100 times every second and this would produce a sort of global symphony."   [You can watch a short video about the Twinthesis project here.]


On June 16, boiling down James Joyce's Ulysses in 140-character Tweets

The New York Times ArtsBeat blog, 5/25/11

"Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed." 17 characters left to complete a tweet. It just might work. What would James Joyce think of Twitter? More important, what would his handle be? It's impossible not to imagine the inherent fun the great English-language experimentalist would find in translating his voluminous ideas onto the 140-character template, or at least the irresistible challenge.  On June 16, Bloomsday for those not in the know, lovers of Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom and Molly will have the opportunity to dip into the mind of Joyce and try to tweet his thoughts. Ulysses Meets Twitter 2011, a project created by one "Stephen from Baltimore," invites devotees of the approximately 265,000-word work to recast the novel through tweets from start to finish within the 24-hour period that the novel's odyssey through Dublin (on June 16, 1904) takes place. "Would it be horrific? Beatific? Hence this experiment," Stephen asks. We'll find out, but for now the call is out for a global-volunteer army to tweet "Ulysses" on the @11ysses account. All volunteers need to do is choose a section, or several, from the 18 episodes, structured loosely on Homer's epic, "then thoughtfully, soulfully, fancifully compose a series of 4-6 tweets to represent that section." You have until May 30. More information is available at Circe is taken.


A collaborative Twitter art project that illustrates tweeters' visions of the future

Wired UK magazine, 5/24/11

One Smart car, two days, 150 tweets and several Sharpies combined in a collaborative view of the future and the inventions, improvements and bizarre events that come with it.  Smart asked the twittersphere to compress its visions of the future into 140 characters or less, then had illustrator Johanna Basford draw them on a shiny white Smart ForTwo.  [Watch a short video of the process here.]  What does the future according to Twitter look like?  "A world that's pretty crazy, full of bizarre inventions and the odd dog-walking robot," she said.  According to the #smartpic tweets, the future involves humans living in space, a complete shift to renewable energy and Scotland winning the World Cup." Basford adds, "some things are easier to imagine than others!"  Being faced with having to draw these fantastic ideas, however, brought its own pressure: "the unicorn winning a marathon in under two hours proved particularly troublesome. I find horses hard to draw at the best of times, never mind when it's on the side of a car, with hundreds of people watching and with a pen you know you can't rub out."

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