Friday, September 30, 2016

Twitterbots Are Pretty Awesome

"Twitterbots" are exactly as they sound: bots that operate on Twitter. These bots, short for "robots," are emerging entities of new media that speak through tweets. They can follow other users, retweet other users' tweets, make tweets of their own, and post @replies to tweets that have certain words or phrases that they are coded to find. Many users follow bots because they tend to be humorous and entertaining.

Twitterbots are created with code by human authors to express a certain meaning. This often leads to the question: who gets the credit for tweets composed? Does the human who made the code or the code itself get the credit? The code follows its instructions to portray what the human wants; however, without the human, no code would have been made in the first place. This means that there is shared authorship with this type of new media.

A personal favorite twitterbot is the account @everyword. This bot has tweeted every single word in the English language. If you visit its page, you will see that they started this account way back in 2007 and finished in 2014. It took them seven years to finish this 109,000-tweet account! The reasons it is so interesting to the Hugh Manatees are that it has been made into a book and that it is "finished." It's not often that an account can be said to be "finished;" usually it just stops posting. It's not a typical twitterbot, and its uniqueness is pretty awesome.

Many people question if twitterbots are capable of making meaningful work. The definition for meaning is "what is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated; signification; import," according to At first it seemed like "no way, a computer just spits things out from a random code; there is no meaning behind it." However, after learning about different types of new media, the thought resolved that through a partnership of author and code, bots can be meaningful, even if that meaning comes solely from the author. The author crafts the code in such a way that it will produce what he or she wishes it to. Some forms of new media, such as self-generating poems, are still dubious sources of meaning, but twitterbots can definitely illustrate meaning as it was intended by the author.

Even after experiencing twitterbots for just the first time, it seems obvious that new media is thriving. There are innumerable ways in which to create, explain, and develop ideas with new media. Twitterbots are among our favorite varieties of new media because of their modern genesis and their home on a well-used recreational medium. They could prove highly influential in getting Millennials such as us interested in new forms of art.

Writer: Morgan Gleixner

Editor: Patrick Stahl

Imagery: Zack Tokosh

Hypertextuals: Molly Verostick

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