Collaborative Artistic Theory and Practice. ‘Le ragioni dei gruppi’. TwLetteratura

by Iuri Moscardi, Hans Caron, Edoardo Montenegro, Pierluigi Vaccaneo

Social networks offer unique opportunities for collaboration. In 2012, aiming to harness the creative potential of Twitter to promote literary works, three Italian friends from Turin and Milan – all of them interested in discovering a new approach to the study of Literature – developed an innovative method for collective reading which they called TwLetteratura.

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Collaboration is at the heart of all their experiments so far, and they use the following method: each social reading project is created by a team of people and brings other individuals and groups together around a text; they are invited to interact with each other by “re-writing” the text as short comments; these messages are then published as tweets (on Twitter) or twylls (on Bewtyll, TwLetteratura’s social reading platform).

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There are two levels of collaboration within the TwLetteratura environment. The first is at the organizational level of the start-up, whose management structure is truly collaborative: the founders decide on the texts for the community and how to conduct the social reading activity, while another team is involved in the implementation and the management of the single projects. Objectives and responsibilities are shared, while leveraging the particular skills of individuals to make use fully of the group dynamics. As some TwLetteratura members are living abroad, online collaborative platforms like Google Docs or social communication tools like Skype or Slack are used on a daily basis.

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The second level of collaboration is project development. Community members follow the reading schedule, published on TwLetteratura’s website, and “re-write” the text in bite-sized messages, referring to the chapter through a corresponding hashtag (e.g. adding /01 for the first chapter). Participants can publish as many tweets or twylls as they like, as long as these nuggets of meta-texts are related to the original text (e.g. by quoting, commenting, paraphrasing, adding other media such as pictures or drawings, translating or switching into another genre). Because all users “re-write” the same chapters at the same time, they interact in real time, creating threads of tweets/twylls and focusing on aspects of the text usually not considered. Moreover, TwLetteratura creates accounts related to the characters or authors of the books, who interact with the users. This second level of group interaction is the most important because it is the most concrete and real: TwLetteratura relies on the social and interactive benefits of Twitter, above all the 140 character limit (maintained in Betwyll). These features, and the lack of restrictions when it comes to “re-writing” the text, allow users to connect with the content of the text, which is de-constructed and then re-constructed.

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The TwLetteratura method is very powerful for the practice of grammar and lexicon: the 140 character limit forces users to be very precise by checking whether their messages are grammatically correct or by looking for better (or shorter) synonyms. Several experiments revealed that the employment of Twitter’s paradigm for social reading purposes is very useful for schools and universities in Italy, but especially with foreign speakers practicing Italian or whose language teachers are eager to apply new methodologies.

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