A guide to the TwLetteratura method

A guide to the TwLetteratura method is available to all those willing to apply it in Creative Commons to read and comment on a cultural content or to deliver a cultural project based on it. Anyone using such method is required to quote the following sentence to make the ownership of the method explicit, cannot use the method for commercial purposes and cannot modify its distinctive features: “The TwLetteratura method, invented by Paolo CostaEdoardo Montenegro and Pierluigi Vaccaneo, is published under the Creative Commons (Attribution – Not Commercial – Share in the same way) license on the website twletteratura.org“.

Summary of the TwLetteratura guide

1. Introduction

2. Validity of the method

3. Preparation

4. Implementation

5. Closing

6. Useful links

 

1. Introduction to the TwLetteratura guide

The codification of the TwLetteratura guide does not imply that all aspects of this method have been equally studied so far. What follows represents the state of the art, developed through the experiences run so far by the TwLetteratura community. Further pilots will allow to refine its approach, also considering the evolution of the technological platforms used.

 

2. Validity of the method 

The version of the method here described is the one applicable to the reading and commenting on a literary work through Betwyll and/or Twitter. In case the method is used in partially different contexts – i.e. in support of the didactic activity or to read non literary works, such as paintings, musical compositions, movies, places, landscapes or touristic services – we suggest to adjust it to the specific situation, introducing one or more variations to the process we designed.

 

3. Preparation

3.1 Choosing what to read and comment on

In this phase the cultural content the community will be asked to read and rewrite on Betwyll and/or Twitter is identified. In principle, there are no limitations as to the choice of the object to which the exercise is applied. In our experience we dealt with very diverse texts – short novels, dialogues, newspaper articles, experimental fantasy short stories, 19th century novels – always with excellent results.

However, some parameters can be used to assess the opportunity to work on a specific text, especially for first attempts. A text divided into discrete and sufficiently short units (i.e. 5-10 pages each maximum) is more suitable to the exercise than a text with no internal divisions or with very long chapters. This because the reading and the commenting follow a shared schedule dividing the text in smaller portions. Such portions are read one at a time. In the case of the twenty-seven Dialogues with Leucò by Cesare Pavese, for instance, the TwLetteratura community read a dialogue every three days, so the exercise took eighty-one days overall. From this perspective, a work such as Invisible cities by Italo Calvino is perfectly suitable to the method, being it composed of fifty-five rather short text units corresponding to just as many cities. In this case, in fact, the community read a city a day for a total of fifty-five days. For the same reason, the presence of a particularly complex narrative structure makes the exercise harder, being it more difficult to isolate the portions to work on day by day. On the contrary, where the division in chapters coincides with self-contained narrative units, the organization of the work is easier.

3.2 Identifying a hashtag

Choosing a hashtag is key, since it allows to identify the project and its implementation. The hashtag must be used both on Betwyll and Twitter to identify the project twylls, on the former, and to isolate the project tweets from the tweets of the Twitter timeline flow. The choice of the hashtag is based on three key principles: 

Recognizability. The hashtag used must be clearly identifiable, usually referring to the title or the main character of the text chosen.

Consistence. Semantically, the hashtag used must unequivocally evoke the text chosen. Each twyll or tweet, in fact, is nothing but a deictic element evoking the text: the semantic connection with it must thus be immediate.

Synthesis. The hashtag must be short, not to consume too many characters of the 140 available on Betwyll.

3.3 Scheduling the exercise 

The scheduling must be based on the text structure. For a text composed of short chapters it is advised to take few days (two maximum) to comment on each chapter. This way, the interest of the community is continuously aroused. For a more complex text, each chapter can be analyzed even for more than two days. In the case of a didactic project, the scheduling can be agreed with the school and aligned with its curriculum. In addition, on Betwyll it is possible to create tailored projects based on their promoters’ needs.

3.4 Building dramatis personae

When preparing and implementing a project, some specific users might be engaged to a greater extent. These super-users are asked to adopt a more direct approach towards the community, through different modalities. For instance, specific categories inspired by the text can be identified and associated to these super-users, asking them to be the “guardians” of one or more chapters. In the case of #Leucò (a 2013 project dedicated to Dialogues with Leucò by Cesare Pavese) we identified some #Titani (Titans) to animate the game through a more active participation: tweets suggesting peculiar interpretations, interaction through retweets or replies to other users, engagement of other participants. The same happened with #TwSposi (a 2013/14 project dedicated to The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni), when the role of the #Bravi (Thugs) was assigned to the classes of the schools involved rather than to single users. These super-users are selected through an online call before the project starts and voluntarily decide to accept such role.

As an alternative, fictional Betwyll and/or Twitter accounts directly related to the main characters or to the author of the text chosen can be created. For instance, during #TwSposi, TwLetteratura created the account of the author (@Manzoni_Ale) and of the book’s main characters (@TwLuciaM, @Tw_Renzo, etc.) that were autonomously managed by the community; whereas, in the case of #TwPinocchio (a 2014 project dedicated to Collodi’s puppet, the role of @PinocchioTw was played by a different person in each chapter. In this case, instead than launching an online call, it is advisable to identify expert users willing to commit to the project. The naming of the fictional accounts, though subject to variations, tends to use the format @TwCharacter’sName.

3.5 Assigning roles

Whether roles (the above mentioned dramatis personae) are assigned through an online call on TwLetteratura’s website or through a direct invitation by the organizers, it is advised to contact each super-user before the beginning of the project to define the community management details. At the same time, it is also advised to provide dedicated support to the micro-community of these super-users and fictional characters, through ad hoc channels external to Twitter and/or Betwyll.

3.6 Communicating and promoting the schedule 

The communication of the project schedule is done through explanatory materials (videos and/or posts on the project functioning) published on TwLetteratura’s website. The official calendar in particular (see par. 3.3) must be shared and communicated to all the participants. These contents remain available for the entire duration of the project. Their promotion is made through our online channels: Twitter (@betwyll, @twletteratura), Facebook (Tw Letteratura, Betwyll) and Google+.

 

4. Implementation

4.1 Comments  

Provided that each user is free to interpret the game according to his/her inspiration, the participants – who, according to the spirit of the Web can also join anonymously – are asked to write comments in the respect of a shared set of rules.

a. Timing rules. It is required to follow the official reading schedule, communicated before the launch and constantly available online, as per par. 3.6. The calendar, as per par. 3.3, could also be adjusted to specific needs.

b. Syntactical rules. It is required to use the official project hashtag without changing it. It is also recommended to add the corresponding unit number, as defined in the official calendar. For such purpose, a “/” (forward slash) should be added to the hashtag, followed by the cardinal number identifying that unit. So, for example, when reading the first text unit of Invisible Cities (#Invisibili), the hashtag to use for all the tweets/twylls commenting on that unit will be #Invisibili/01.

c. Ethical rules. It is required to respect all the participants, regardless of the cultural, political, religious, etc. orientations that should emerge from their tweets/twylls. It is also required to enhance dialogue among the participants, avoiding polemics that are irrelevant to the project goals.

4.1.1 Launch

The project promoters are in charge of the official launch of the game with one or more ‘ice-break’ twylls/tweets. It is also advised to mark the official project calendar by publishing a tweet/twyll when passing from one unit to the other. Such tweet/twyll, named ‘time signal’, can be in whatever form but should clearly indicate the hashtag and the corresponding unit number.

4.1.2 Interaction and community animation 

The project promoter is in charge of the community management and animation. Ensuring a continuous and constant presence within the Betwyll and/or Twitter channel is a way to show professionalism, expertise and attention to the project itself. The interaction is mainly assigned to the official accounts promoting the project, who shall be clearly indicated in all the promotional materials.

4.1.3 Moderation

There are no specific moderation rules. Dialogue must be free and under each user’s responsibility, as per par. 4.1. The official accounts promoting the project as well as the ‘guardians’, if any (#Titani, #Bravi, etc. as mentioned in par. 3.4), of a specific chapter are asked to become moderators, though not exclusively, of the entire text under reading or of a portion of it.

5.  Closing

5.1 Community celebration

Each project is celebrated through a public event, organized in the weeks following the end of the game, to which all the community is invited. The event is an occasion to present the TwLetteratura method, to share the project figures, and to communicate the details of the forthcoming projects, if any. Such gathering, where the online and the offline dimensions meet, ideally marks the end of the social reading project.

5.2 Communication of quantitative results 

At the end of each social reading project, the promoter communicates the quantitative results achieved –  number of participants and twylls/tweets produced – giving them as much visibility as possible. The same is done by TwLetteratura.

 

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