Glitch Writing, or, How to Break Twitter

Breaking Twitter is fun. It’s weird. It’s an art practice. It demonstrates how writing and design overlap.

Perhaps you’ve spent an afternoon scrolling through your Twitter feed and happened upon a Tweet that looks like this:

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Or this:

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If you have, you didn’t happen upon a random glitch; you happened upon a carefully crafted act of composition. These tweets are produced with skill and precision, and they are meant to disrupt the flow and function of the feed. Tweets like this ask their reader to reflect on the form and method of our most common modes of Internet-based communication. So what’s going on here?

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Can we call this language? How is code “glitched” to produce these weird messages? How do they reveal the limitations of the text box as they are visualized?

From an academic standpoint, these glitches invoke an interdisciplinary response. Glitches trick us when files change format (see Lori Emerson’s “Glitch” entry in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media).

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Glitches remind us that translation is never perfect (see Matt Applegate’s “Glitched in Translation” and Amodern article, “Glîtchéd in †ranslation: Rèading †ext & Codè as a Plaÿ of $pacés“).

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Glitches are art objects (see the host of articles and resources compiled by Phillip Sterns).

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Making  glitch art or writing glitch might seem hard, but there are numerous tutorials one can turn to in order to create image-based glitch art and sound-based glitch art–everything from Data Moshing to Sonification. (Again, Phillip Sterns has compiled a great list of tutorials here.) Over the past few years, articles featuring Glitchr’s work in particular have appeared in Rhizome, Buzzfeed, and The Creator’s Project. However, glitch-writing is a movement; one can find great examples by artists and writers like JodiRosa Menkman, Jon Cates, and Jimpunk.

This series of posts focuses solely on the production of text-based glitches, just like the tweets embedded above. A tutorial, critical analysis, and guide for critical reflection follow. Whether you are interested in glitch-writing as an aesthetic practice or interested in teaching the practice to others, the tutorial, analysis, and guide will help you contextualize your work and situate it within the discourse that surrounds the practice.

To the tutorial!

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