RE: Twitter--Mustn't Grumble

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Susan B. Apel

AVA Gallery and the Digital Age of Writing

140 characters would never be enough. I am a lawyer, professor, a writer and an underdeveloped poet, who thinks in paragraphs and pages. I hate alternative spellings as much as I hate alternative facts, and use "Thx" instead of "Thank you" only in extreme circumstances, such as when trying to email from a tiny screen while sitting in my parked car in the cold. I laugh, but do not ever write LOL in my communications.

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I am old school.  But I am a blogger, and a contributor to magazines and literary journals that no longer publish on paper but solely on the screen. Email, and pages like Blackboard and TWEN, have made my teaching easier. I text only a little, use Facebook too much, love posting to professional listservs. There--I am teetering on the verge of new school too.

Are my misgivings about new forms of communication justified or am I just grumpy? "It is grumpiness, Susan," wrote (in an email) Professor Robert Kalm, Professor at Quinnipiac University. Kalm is scheduled to teach a course, The Interactive Voice, at the AVA Gallery and Art Center. He sees value in tweeting. He wrote, " . . . I had to reach graduate interactive media students, so as a good writer I learned to speak their language. That gave me a greater respect for their world and a new understanding of writing too. I run entire class discussions on Twitter. I believe in it."

You might think that the love that young people have for Twitter and text bites would harm and curtail their more traditional forms of writing. Kalm thinks not. He referred me to a study at Stanford University that showed students are writing "more than any previous generation in history." Apparently the professor conducting the study was deluged when she asked participating students to supply her with everything they had written during a specific time period, which included emails and papers and poetry and more. Kalm thinks more writing leads to better writing overall. The jury may still be out. The Stanford study sample was small--189 students. And Professor Greg Johnson, Director of Vermont Law School's Legal Writing Program, does not see a positive correlation between new age communications and what he considers to be writing.  "Ask any legal writing professor and they will tell you that students' writing has gotten worse in the age of social media."

Even in my grumpiness, however, I am with Kalm on this point: if one were to tweet, 'tis best one were to tweet well. His course at AVA is designed for artists (but he has taught it to journalists and medical students too) who want to deal with the digital communication world more effectively. "For everyone who seeks to connect with an online audience, this course will teach you new ways to consider, use and manage the Web."

Kalm also had a larger point to make. He says, "We could all do better listening and speaking in the different languages of our audiences. I try to teach and reflect that idea. If my students want to speak by text or Twitter, I take that seriously." If you can't beat 'em . . .or maybe the point is just to join them anyway. I am still thinking in paragraphs (or this post would be a tweet) but I'm considering becoming a shade less grumpy.

Thx for reading.

(For more information about Robert Kalm's course, The Interactive Voice, contact the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon NH.)


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Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge


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