Posted by: dougery | June 23, 2011

Linguistic Exchange in the Early 21st Century

Twitter is useful in that it is so strange. I wouldn’t say I am an expert in the medium, if you can call it that, but I do browse my feed fairly often. What twitter ultimately gives me is debatable, however the people I enjoy hearing from the most do some of the following:

Use humor
Provide links to interesting photos, videos and articles
Inform me about the process behind their particular craft (i.e. music, art, writing)
Ask me a direct question or include a hash-tag that I might want to participate on
Engage others in an existing dialogue

As such my favorite twitterers are a motley crew (that does not actually include the Mötley Crüe, at least not at the moment, but give me a second…). My feed is full of comicbook writers and artists, genre authors, journalists, musicians, politicians, friends and Shaq.

Two of my favorite accounts belong to fictional people. One is a former MLB pitcher who has been dead for 113 years @OldHossRadbourn, the other is the former fictional president of these United States (on the tv show The West Wing) @Pres_Bartlet.

Old Hoss is wonderful because I get his old timey anti-pc ramblings on sports and masculinity in 144 character outbursts. The self described “Pitching Deity; Dapper Gent” (notice the semi-colon, as if to say the two categories have little or nothing to do with one another) weighs in on the world of contemporary sports and pop culture with spleen-vents such as the following, written after a Detroit Tigers starting pitcher had a 2-hitter against the Indians a few weeks ago:

Old Hoss Radbourn

@OldHossRadbourn Old Hoss Radbourn

Not a bad night, J. Verlander. Do it again with a Kiowa arrow in your back and we’ll discuss your worth.

Hoss also dropped advertising for his “forthcoming” PlayStation game Old Hoss 1k884 baseball:

Old Hoss Radbourn

@OldHossRadbourn Old Hoss Radbourn

The primary player ratings are: bunt; throw; field, pitch, hit for average; speed; stamina (general; opiates; women); fisticuffs; mustache.

You get the idea. Now President Bartlet is a much more interesting case seeing as he often engages ‘real world’ folks in very real world political arguments. A few weeks back around the first republican debate, Mitt Romney actually sent a tweet his way:

Mitt Romney

@MittRomney Mitt Romney

Mr. President, in order to create jobs, it helps to have had a job. Video:

To which Jed replied:

@Pres_Bartlet Josiah Bartlet

.@MittRomney Even if that job was just restructuring companies via layoffs only to have them declare bankruptcy anyway?

Their actual exchange is less important than the fact that they are speaking to one another in the first place. Here we have a true mindfuck of a conversation, at least in terms of agency. Let me see if I can parse things out a bit.

On one side you (presumably) have a staffer for Mitt Romney speaking on behalf of a real person (Mitt Romney) as that real person’s idealized (i.e. completely fake) persona. At least three levels of remove from an actual person speaking/writing words.

On the other side you have some anonymous dude (1) who has created a twitter account for a fictional character (President Bartlet, [2]) who was in turn created by a hive mind of writers (x).

Just how far away are we from two physical human beings speaking to one another here? And why do I find this phenomenon so interesting? Is this really so different than two computers ‘waking up’ and shooting the shit with one another? Is this the end of everything?

Anyhow if for some reason you are at all interested in my infrequent twitter thoughts you can follow me at @Les_Savy_Ferd


  1. Ok. Why is the pear carrying a purse?

  2. and in heels no less.

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