A life in pieces: the ultimate Twitter

In a recent edition of Have I Got News For You came the item about Robert Shields, the (I infer) slightly potty man who has documented his life in short segments, every five minutes, in his underwear.

The entire tome, from 3,000 to 6,000 words a day, currently amounts to 37.5 million words and includes details of his blood pressure and urinary habits. To wit:

12:20 to 12:25: I stripped to my thermals. I always do that.

12:25 to 12:30: I discharged urine.

Now, from one perspective this could be Great Art. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, and this is one minutely examined life. Taken together, it’s a running commentary on one human being’s experiences and in that respect is close – if not as immersive – as Justin.TV. I may be alone in thinking that, in its original, unadulterated form, Justin.TV was profound. It has direct parallels in Andy Warhol’s film Sleep, in which he recorded, quite simply, a man sleeping. This in turn gave rise to Sam Taylor-Wood’s portrait of David Beckham. There was something about the intimacy on display that I found compelling. I even saw this in early editions of Big Brother before it became a monster: simple studies of people asleep showed them relaxed and, for once, peaceful.

But from another it is, of course, mad. Is the unexamined urine not worth, well, urinating?

The current social media parallel is with Twitter. What if we took the combined output of Twitter and took that as a snapshot of what everyone is saying, right now? Would that be profound? Or just mad? 

As Belle Du Jour showed, you really can take the aggregated posts to a blog and turn them into something of interest. But I’m still not sure that there is a narrative to Twitter that translates into anything other than “I am wondering what to say or do next.”

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