Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Executive Severance Jacket Copy

"A He Dunit. Sometimes a little verbose, but OMG this is the best twitstery I ever read. It's got everything: narrative drive, mystery, comedy, thrills, tension, laughs. Blechman is on to something, a genre as important to literature as the invention of haiku in rhyme. ..."
- Marvin Kitman, author of The Man Who Would Not Shut Up - The Rise of Bill O’Reilly

"A delightful 'twitstery' - a mystery written in real time Tweets - that is compelling, entertaining, and shows off what can be done in the 140-character form with style and mastery. Blechman's delight in the language shows in every tweet - that is to say, every thread of the story. His plot is tight, tingling, and diverting. Poe would have been proud of the new form Blechman has given to the mystery story."
- Paul Levinson, author of New New Media and The Plot to Save Socrates

"Embracing the challenges found in publishing via the medium Twitter, Bob Blechman’s super silly story Executive Severance is stuffed with punny dialogue, clever character conditions, and a total lack of adherence to the old “rules” of storytelling. It’s a meaty tale told in deliciously rare, bite-sized chunks that I’d recommend for consumption to anyone hungering for fiction that satisfies. Well-done, Bob!"
- Michelle Anderson, author of The Miracle in July - a digital love story.

"Executive Severance, a laugh out loud comic mystery novel, epitomizes our current cultural moment in that it is born from the juxtaposition of authorial invention and technological communication innovation. Merging creative text with new electronic context, Robert K. Blechman's novel, which originally appeared as Twitter entries, can be read on a cell phone. His tweets which merge to form an entertaining novel can't be beat. Hold the phone; exalt in the mystery--engage with Blechman's story which signals the inception of a new literary art form."
-Marleen S. Barr, author of Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millennium

"Executive Severance" has been compared to Shakespeare, Proust and Joyce in that it is a tragedy they'd rather not remember that has driven them to drink. One review called it riveting in the sense of nine inch nails being driven into your skull.

Summary: Limited to 140 characters to confess his sins and meet his Maker, "tweeting" may not have been the best use of Willum Granger's final moments.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Media at the Center - A McLuhan Centenary Symposium

Media at the Center
A McLuhan Centenary Symposium
Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus
McNally Auditorium
Law School Building
140 W. 62nd Street, Between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues
New York, New York
September 17, 2011
Free and Open to the Public

9:00-10:30 AM McLuhan at Fordham: A Roundtable Discussion

Moderator: Lance Strate, Fordham University

Panelists: John Carey, Fordham University
Jacqueline Egan, QD Healthcare Group
Pete Fornatale, WFUV
Anthony Perrotto, Independent Video Producer
Paul Ryan, New School for Social Research

10:30-11:00 AM Break

11:00-12:00 AM McLuhan and Theology

Moderator: John M. Phelan, Fordham University

Presentation: "Marshall McLuhan's Theological Anthropology"
Joseph Kim, Lancaster Bible College

Discussants: Babette Babich, Fordham University
Eric McLuhan, University of Toronto
Paul Ryan, New School for Social Research

12:00-1:30 PM Break

1:30-3:00 PM McLuhan and New Media

Moderator: Janet Sternberg, Fordham University

Presentations: "Digital McLuhan"
Paul Levinson, Fordham University

"Understanding New Media"
Robert K. Logan, Ontario College of Art and Design

"Confessions of a Would-Be Twitter
Robert Blechman, St. George's University

3:00-3:30 PM Break

3:30 PM-4:30 PM Keynote Address

Moderator: Andrew McLuhan

"Media and Formal Cause"
Eric McLuhan, University of Toronto

4:30 PM-5:00 PM Reception and Book Signing
for Media and Formal Cause
by Marshall and Eric McLuhan

5:00-7:00 PM Break

7:00 PM Media at the Center

Moderator: Lance Strate, Fordham University

Screening: The Gutenberg Galaxy
1961 television program
produced in Detroit by Gary Gumpert

Panelists: Daniel Czitrom, Mount Holyoke College
Paul Grosswiler, University of Maine
Gary Gumpert, Urban Communication Foundation
Joshua Meyrowitz, University of New Hampshire
Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, University of Toronto

Monday, September 5, 2011

Secondary Literacy

I use the term "Secondary Literacy" to describe the cultural transformation being wrought by our interaction with the Internet. With a nod to Walter J. Ong, I am suggesting that the literacy demands of the Internet have required denizens of our Secondary Orality culture to revisit some of the tropes of primary literacy. This new type of literacy is shaped by influences of the electronic media just as Secondary Orality was not quite the same as Primary Orality.
If generations prior to my parents learned to read before they learned to attend to electronic media, and if my generation and generations going forward first learned to attend to electronic media before we learned to read, what of the generation that learns via web-connected computers before formal training in literacy?

I don't know exactly what the implications of the new literacy will be, but I think if we can look to changes in belief structures, balance of human senses, even neural brain mapping in the switch from Primary Literacy to Secondary Orality, we can begin to search for similar transformations as our culture moves to Secondary Literacy.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Marshall McLuhan What Are You Doin'?

To my mind, Marshall McLuhan was doing what many of us in Neil Postman's early NYU Media Ecology program were doing: Trying to create a new language and a new structure for describing the true impact of technology on human society and human psychology. One term that comes to mind is "paradigm switch." Through puns, probes and metaphors McLuhan attempted to define how electronic media put us into a post-print paradigm. One problem: when you're in one paradigm, its hard to see it. Terms like "reductionist," "technological determinist" etc are the ways other people try to describe in their own paradigmatic terms what McLuhan was attempting. They were misinformed.

One reason I always bring up Claude Levi-Strauss (ad nauseam to some  peoples minds) is that he also straddled paradigms. In an cultural and  intellectual environment where it was easy to describe native peoples as "primitive" Levi-Strauss suggested that they were capable of a sophistication of  thought and a nuance of expression through their "mythology" equal to or perhaps  greater than our own. That doesn't mean "right," just complex. In his analysis of myths Levi-Strauss stumbled upon a great realization. It was the not content of the myths which contained their true meaning. It was the structure of the total mythic canon which contained the "message." McLuhan knew of Levi-Strauss and admitted his debt to him. (see James M. Curtis "Marshall McLuhan and French Structuralism" Boundary 2 1/1:134-46, 1970 and McLuhan's own note in Technology and Culture, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Jan., 1975), 74-78.)

"I don't know who discovered water, but it wasn't a fish" McLuhan was fond of saying. He could have added that whoever did discover water was probably labeled an H2O determinist or an "airhead" by the other water dwellers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Executive Severance - Introduction

Confessions of a Would-be Twitter Novelist

“What could be more practical for a man caught between the Scylla of a literary culture and the Charybdis of post-literate technology to make himself a raft of ad copy?” (169 characters) -Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy

According to Wikipedia, the Twitter network began is 2006 and as of this writing in 2010 is approaching 200 million users worldwide. (133 characters) By 2009 I realized Twitter was a happening thing and if I didn’t jump on the bandwagon I’d be left behind with my ocarina and tambourine. (137 characters) But how to proceed? I had dabbled in Facebook and MySpace, but this Twitter thing was different. (136 characters) Limited to 140 characters (or less), with no photos, videos or extended links, Twitter conveyed the brief, the inconsequential, the trivial. (140 characters) In other words, the Twitter medium was a perfect vehicle for my literary aspirations. (85 characters)

I conceived a literary experiment: Was it possible to maintain a narrative structure and attract a reading public 140 characters at a time? (139 characters) After 15 months and the more than 800 tweets that make up this Twitter novel, I can say confidently that the answer is “no.” (125 characters)

I adopted the detective genre as the driver for my story because the murder mystery is such a standard part of our popular culture. (131 characters) Would my hero solve the crime? Would he undergo physical and mental trials? Would he get the girl? Would he spawn a publishing franchise? (137 characters) I soon realized that Twitter forced me to adopt the serial techniques of newspaper comic page story telling. (108 characters) To succeed I needed to learn and adopt the narrative strategies of Al Capp or Milton Caniff as well as Raymond Chandler or Mickey Spillane. (139 characters) How did comic strip authors hold their readers’ attention each day and tell a joke while moving the story forward? (114 characters) How did mystery writers plant clues to direct or misdirect their readers while inexorably leading to the revelatory climax? (123 characters)

I created a new Twitter account “RKBs_Twitstery” as a container for my novel and coined a new term for the Twitter mystery genre. (129 characters) Starting on May 6, 2009 I posted a new Executive Severance tweet twice a day every day for 15 months, never missing a deadline. (127 characters) The 140 character limit required intensive wordsmithing, creative editing, the omission of punctuation in some cases and a lot of counting. (139 characters). I cultivated brevity, concision and obsessive-compulsion. Fortunately, once I completed my writing I was able to leave these habits behind. (139 characters) The cumulative result of my Twitter efforts is collected in the volume you hold in your hands. (94 characters).