On writing and cross-overs

Two things, which intersect: twitter and blogging.


I’ve recently reconnected my Twitter account, after letting it lapse and moulder for some time. I had only Twittered around passively in between, reading, mostly short items first read about via other sources and keeping up to date with a conference (or a parallel session) through its # coverage and updates. Twitter has changed over the years and continues to do so. I’m curious to see how (why too, like any other historically- and speculatively-minded reader) and what this means for short-form writing and how it interacts with long-form. You’ll see that most of the Twitterers I’m “following” are comedians; this is partly to see how they work in short-form.

I’ve also “unfollowed” a bunch of Twitter accounts: these are all organisations and news sources whom I read elsewhere anyway and I find it easier to read them in a browser than via Twitter or through an app. I’d been throwing out a bunch of iPad apps because they did nothing that the full version on a browser didn’t also do, and often did less: in a mediated way, directing and controlling a linear information path. That’s not how I read or like to read: the whole point of the online world to my mind is connectivity, network, cross-links, multiple open tabs, flow, and circular shapes of reading.

Given that I’ve only just returned to the Twitterverse there will probably be a pottering period for a fair while while I figure out what it does that other platforms don’t and what to do in very flat-footed practical terms to integrate Twitter with my other online reading and writing practices.

Here follows what I’ve figured out so far. Some may be banal and obvious. Some may be amusing–and I’m always glad to amuse–to Twittexperts. Be kind, I’m new to this, but constructive criticism is welcome. Like in any other learning exercise.

Twitter is good for very short expression, that’s the whole point of it and has been since its start.

It’s got a solid past history now of use as material for larger written and multi-media creative works. For compiling and constructing curated collections: productively integrated with Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vimeo, YouTube, and so on. To create larger collaborative collective pieces, either as is or narrativised (ex. using Storify), and Twitter is fantastic for conferences especially those with multiple simultaneous sessions (ex. ICMS Kalamazoo) or that clash with one you’re at (ex. BABEL Toronto last weekend vs. the UBC Medieval Workshop here in Vancouver). It’s fascinating to see how short writing turns into long writing–and vice versa–and moves around in curves and loops in between and before and after; thinking here about the curviness and dimensionality of writing, akin to non-linearity in reading. Thinking as ever about medieval romance; how it ticks, how it’s put together, how it’s made; and how those three things are distinct but connected.

Twitter is public by default (though one can opt to “protect” tweets, manually approving “each and every person who may view that account’s tweets”), unlike Facebook;  it doesn’t supplant Facebook but supplements it. I’ve not been completely sure what to do about communiqués that fall into an intersection between Twitter and Facebook: short form micro-blogging, suitable for public reading and potential further dissemination. There seems to be a clunkiness to me so far (on admittedly scant experience) in that a lot of what I read and share on Facebook is Twitter-appropriate, but not everything from any same source, and not everything that is on Facebook is also on Twitter.

I don’t want to change my privacy settings on Facebook: even though both platforms are set up so that linking them is easy, and easiest of all if you’re willing to make all your Facebook posts and all your tweets public and to share all of your information (including contacts) on the one with the other and vice versa. So I guess I’m just making life difficult for myself by not taking the easy route, and I shouldn’t complain about a clunkiness that’s avoidable and of my own obtuse creation?

Right now, then, I’m keeping both open at the same time and reading both together (hello Anthony Grafton, grand master of simultaneous multiple reading, a god omnipresent in multiple worlds) when on an iPad. It may be that I’ll just get into a new smooth habit, or that my reading and writing habits will change, or that I’ll find out about some other way of doing things.


On a smartphone, apps are necessary otherwise I will go blind and mad. I don’t like using smartphones for reading and writing anyway, not beyond the extent of a text message, but I do appreciate the ability to connect one’s camera to social media and I understand photos and very short comments on the hoof as good uses of Twitter (and of a ‘phone). We’ve all seen plenty of people doing this well over the years; and for the public good.

My Twitter settings are fully public (aside from my ‘phone number), deliberately–

image–because like any academic working at a public university, I have a double duty to engage in active outreach.

As my accounts are linked so that tweets are also posted on Facebook (but not vice versa), the potential remains for sharing, comment, and discussion of a non-public sort over there, on Facebook. Anything on Facebook can be cross-posted on Twitter; I would first remove any identification of individuals who posted, shared, or commented back on Facebook.

I like this “both/and” situation. Of at least a semblance of layers in life, a full range from public to private. (Yes, Facebook can never be truly private but neither can anything else in this day and age, except thinking to yourself silently in your head and maybe some conversations in real life. Depending on how paranoid you are. )

I also like the “both/and”-ness of Facebook itself, acting as the intermediary, interzone, and a third way in relation to tweeting and blogging … and real life. I was an early Facebooker and persist in old-fashioned Facebook interaction. “Facebook friends” are “friend-friends.” I do not befriend people unless I have at least conversed with them enough to find common ground and points of mutual interest; I will not accept “friend requests” from people I don’t know at all; and no, one shared “Facebook friend” is not enough: there’s an awful lot of competitive quantitative friend-accumulating going on, and there’s a lot of multi-level marketing around. As my friend FH put it recently:

Nothing wrong with having your own business but consider setting up a separate business page that people can choose to follow. That way you don’t lose people who care about you and want to see your other (non-sales) updates. […] I prefer to make the choice of what businesses to follow and what products to hear about. I hate to miss your other thoughts and photos but I will regretfully unfollow you if you’re trying to sell me MLM products.

It’s the way the coaches/salespeople are taught to package up and sell their “life.” Kids, food, exercise. Maybe only every fifth post mentions the [product], but all of the posts are in the service of sales.

And because the coaches are taught to use the same style of captioning, lighting etc for their family/outdoors/food/happiness shots as they do for their product shots, it’s all branded. Everything is an advertisement. And therefore everything seems insincere.

(Tangentially, this is all very interesting for the scholarly reason of work on sincerity and on value / prez e valor.)

People who use multiple social media, what do you do? What would you recommend doing and not doing? What tips would you like to share?


I’m delighted that an experiment has now formally come to an end.

No, not this blog. It will continue for longer-form writing and probably a fair dose of short-form too. Micro-blogging cannot supplant blogging, again as with Twitter and Facebook it’s a supplement or complement.

This present blog was started in 2008, as the successor to my previous “personal websites” (as they were called and considered back in the day) on other platforms (2003-2007: http://www.princeton.edu/~julietobrien, 2007-2008: http://www.iol.ie/~julietobrien) and as a place for Obrienaternal Commentary that had started to make appearances on the Forum for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Ireland (of which I was one of the organisers, and the webmistress for its WordPress “site-that-was-not-a-site-but-made-to-look-like-one”). Earlier activity here on Meta-meta-medieval was mostly in quite short form, and re-reporting medieval and medievalist news. That started to change around 2012; there was a hiatus in 2013 (more on which in the next paragraph); and I started blogging “more seriously”–i.e. at greater length and with longer windedness–in the last two years.

I also blog, comment, and converse elsewhere; mostly pseudonymously; for various reasons; no, not because I am trolling. OK, except as a grammando and annoying know-all geek; but I get trolled more than I troll, and that has changed little since I first interacted online about a quarter of a century ago.

When I started my present job–in the teaching track, with no expectations for me to do research or to have time for it–I reckoned it would be interesting to do some writing elsewhere now that my writing-self was formally distinct from my working-self.

I was also thinking, as I had been through 2012 (in part when applying for my present job made me think about what it was I actually did and what Unique Selling Points I might have), about applying theory to practice, amongst other cross-over translations from one area, field, historical period, language, culture, mode to another… in a continuing relationship moving back and forth, sometimes sideways and in loops, with transformation along the way. Translatio, mouvance, perhaps with my own changing work an essai to trobar sen. 

So I started another blog, under a pseudonym attached to a separate online identity. All of my writing from 2013 is there, and some from 2014 and 2015. Less and less as I wrote on here more and more. This other blog was completely independent of Juliet O’Brien, a person in the real world with a real job; and of The Obrienatrix, an interesting avatar, coming and going, always (usually?) in the third person.

Both online personae were playing around with putting Genette’s and Rigolot’s ideas on poetic persona into practice and playing out–as a method-reading experiment–how writing in another voice might have felt like to medieval satirists and other commentators: ex. Faus Samblant-Amors-(Guillaume de Lorris-)Jean de Meun. I had been thinking about those Roman de la Rose cases since 2000, and then in conjunction with other French and Occitan literature of around that period. I wondered what would come out in which voice, and what would come out in my own first-person one, and what would be in a first person of ambiguous attribution. This question of voice had been one of the raisons d’être for Meta-meta-medieval; see for example this post and this next one with a hefty dose of the Roman de la Rose, both from early 2009.

There was a (to me) surprising extent of cross-over. Sometimes I would start writing a post on one blog then cut and paste it and publish it on the other. The two blogs’ audiences were quite different, in part due to some of the topics considered at the other blog being wider or (to many) more trivial. Part of that other blog’s intent was actually community outreach: to foment thinking, reading, researching, and learning in the non-academic world outside; particularly by and about women; and the socio-cultural, political, and ethical applied to the practices of everyday life.

There was a problem: some of the best writing I have done in the last three years is at the other unmentionable blog, including essays that have been read and disseminated more than anything on Meta-meta-medieval. They would have fitted in perfectly here; some posts here would have fitted in over there; but I could not repost them here or claim “my” rights to them without revealing that other identity and that would have destroyed it (them? her? what’s the appropriate form for online entities?).

As a compromise, on the day that a long essay on the other blog kind of took off (not majorly, still in the hundreds, not viral millions…) I promised myself that the next day that Meta-meta-medieval had more readers than the other blog, I would dedicate myself “properly” to M-m-m. So here we are.



As the screenshots above show, no(WordPress)body “liked” me today. But that’s not real life or indeed the rest of online life, and shows why online life should embrace intersections just as real life does in its social spheres and networks. If my only online existence were here on this site, though, I could become depressed or (even more) misanthropic, perhaps destructively so. I do wonder how the phenomenon of “liking” shapes people; those of us who teach have seen many students who haven’t mastered the concept that one’s work is distinct from onesself. Which brings us back to Jean de Meun, and Genius’s (joke and not joke) speech on oeuvres pardurables. 

(FYI, the most-read post on M-m-m is I think still the one where I posted shiny fresh trailers for a new Robin Hood film. It was either that or something on food. We are simple creatures, even us medievalists and academics.)


(1) There are many ways of writing. Writing and ways of writing change. Just like we’re seeing and living right now with reading, this can be positive or can be made positive. As we are in the process, it’s too soon and would be foolish to label it as a finished thing and judge it (aesthetically, morally, medically) to be “good” or “bad.” It is only by being part of that process that one can shape it; being in the current the better to guide the flow. I am also thinking of national elections, in which I have no voice.

(2) It may be interesting–and might even be helpful to your writing–to experiment with other voices. And indeed to write fiction and that other cross-over, “friction.” It is also possible that such “experiential learning” can be “fun.”

(3) As an extreme “method reading-and-writing” experiment, one could use a very stripped-down version of journalling or blogging, with severe constraints on commenting, to try to replicate some of the experience of the madwoman in the attic. But that might be scary, upsetting, bad for one, and most certainly would not be fun.

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