Uued loomevõimalused internetis. Märkmeid sotsiaalmeedia kirjandusest / New Creative Practices on Internet. Some Remarks on Social Media Literature
Artiklis analüüsitakse sotsiaalmeedia kirjandust (nt tviteratuuri, Facebooki kirjandust, Instagrami ja Tumblri luulet) kui digitaalse kirjanduse alaliiki. Kaardistatakse mõned mõisted ja lähenemised, mida sotsiaalmeedia kirjandust käsitledes on eri uurijate poolt varem kasutatud või mis on sedalaadi kirjanduse analüüsiks asjakohased. Lähemalt vaadeldakse kirjandust sotsiaalmeedias kirjanduse demokratiseerumise, amatöörsuse ja professionaalsuse, osaluskultuuri, autori ja lugeja interaktiivsuse, multimodaalsuse ja efemeersuse kontekstis ning lisaks püütakse määratleda sotsiaalmeedia kirjanduse funktsioone.
The concept of digital humanities has been intensively used only during the last fifteen years and, according to the broadest definition, it refers to the study of social, cultural and creative activities of the era of digital technologies. One of the digital humanities’ research areas covers the relations between digital technologies and literature. This is a rapidly growing and changing field which, on the one hand, involves the application of the tools and methods of digital humanities in literary studies, (e.g., the quantitative analysis of literary works with the help of computer technology), on the other hand, it also includes digital cultural creativity – the description and analysis of digitally born works of literature (digital or electronic literature).
Of the research objects of digital humanities, mentioned above, the present article focusses on digital literature, paying special attention to its newest and most widely-spread subcategory – the social media literature.
The social media literature is connected with the development of the internet and the creation of the second-generation web design Web 2.0 in the late 20th and early 21st century. Web 2.0 forms the substratum for social media platforms, the largest and best-know of which are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, etc. Social media platforms are usually simple, easy-to-use and do not require special technical skills, the creation of content is made exceptionally convenient for the users.
Among other types of content, social media includes literary works created by its users. While the essence of such literature is derived from the fact that the user of Web 2.0 can create content, the architecture of each platform determines the type and form of literature which can be created on the platform. This is why we can categorise Twitterature, Facebook poetry and serial stories, Instagram poetry, Tumblr poetry, stories written on Wattpad, literary blogs, etc., as social media literature.
Social media literature has several characteristics of digital literature. Such literature is born-digital – born on social media platforms; these works are often multimodal, joining different media (adding images, sounds, videos to the texts), and often, these texts are also interactive (the readers can step in, comment on the works or even develop them further). Thus we can argue that social media literature really is a subcategory of digital literature.
This article also maps some theoretical concepts and approaches used earlier by different researchers, or which are relevant in the analysis of such type of literature. Social media literature has been examined in the context of democratisation, amateurism and professionalism, participatory culture, interactivity of the author and the reader, multimodality, and ephemerality of literature. Attempts have been made to define the functions of social media literature, such as self-expression, self-branding and self-help. These concepts form the framework for the examples analysed in this article, ranging from Facebook literature to Instagram and Tumblr poetry and to Twitterature.
Social media literature can be examined from the aspect of the democratisation of literature. On social media, each user can create literary content and take it to readers, the author does not depend on literary institutions (publishers, editors, etc.) in spreading their works. Unfortunately, the lack of institutional control on social media means that quality control is missing as well – everyone can become an author. Thus, the other aspect of the democratisation of literature is that in addition to high-quality works, social media is really flooded with amateurish literature.
The concept of participatory culture can also be related with social media literature. One of the important manifestations characterising social media literature is interactivity, the dynamics of the author-reader relationship – the participation of readers in commenting on the work, in expressing their opinion, or even in the creation of the work. Compared to the traditional literature, the relationship between the author and the reader has changed, it is more immediate and it may have an effect on the process of creation.
Multimodality is the term which characterises especially well the poetry written on Tumblr and Instagram. In the social media poetry, multimodality marks the joining together of different media, primarily the combining of texts with images, and sometimes adding sounds or a video. In addition to Tumblr and Instagram poetry, multimodality can be found in Facebook poetry or prose, in literary blogs, etc.
Ephemerality denotes here the fleetingness, dispersal and temporality instead of timelessness, characteristic to the digital world. Phenomena of digital culture have been seen as short-term, temporary and disappearing. Social media literature can also be characterised by ephemerality. The temporariness and disappearance of postings has intentionally been built into the social media environments, e.g., into Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. The ephemerality of social media literature is, primarily, determined by technology and it is related to the structure and the principles of use of these environments.
Specifying the functions of social media literature, we can point out three different functions. First – creative self-expression, which is probably the decisive impulse for amateur authors, young authors, as well as for professional authors who use the social media platforms for spreading their literary works. Second – self-promotion and self-branding, as the greatest challenge facing the authors of social media literature is the finding of the readers. To be able to catch the readers’ attention, the authors who write on social media need to create a strong author image and relentlessly work on self-promotion. Third – self-help can also be classified as a function of social media literature. For example, the short and reassuring forms of Instagram poetry, on the beautifully designed and coloured background and accompanied by soft music, offer positive emotions and have a therapeutic effect.
To sum it up, we should note that social media literature is located on the intersection of different fields of research, combining internet studies, literary studies, media studies and the studies of popular culture. Social media literature is a constantly developing field, responding to the development of technologies and the existing social media platforms, as well as to the appearance of new social media platforms. Therefore, it is important to follow the developments in social media literature to broaden our understanding of literature as a field of art, and to introduce to literary studies the new phenomena which can extend the boundaries of literature.