Betwyll and TwLetteratura: social reading and active reception

Iuri Moscardi, Comparative Literature
Faculty Advisor: Giancarlo Lombardi

Betwyll and TwLetteratura: social reading and active reception

Since 2012, the Italian cultural association TwLetteratura has organized social reading projects that rely on a unique methodology, combining traditional reading with the resources of a social network like Twitter (interaction, synthesis). During these projects, Twitter users read together a book following a reading calendar (which mirrors and follows the book chapters structure) and then commented on it by tweeting about its content: a “re-writing” process during which Twitter users tweet summaries, paraphrases, but also pictures or video, and even real remakes of the original text in different languages or styles. In 2014, TwLetteratura released the app Betwyll to continue these projects in a proprietary digital environment: the main innovation offered by Betwyll is that texts can be published within the app, so participants read and comment on them within the same digital space.

During the years, I collected the outcomes of some of these projects, both as tweets and as twylls (the 140 characters long messages published by users on Betwyll). I want to study these messages in the light of the reception theory of the literary text, developed by the German scholars Wolfgang Iser and Hans Robert Jauss in the 1960s at the University of Konstanza. This theory stresses the relevance of the presence of the reader for the meaning of the text: readers give sense to the text with their reading and the authors should always imply them. With my research, I aim to study the outcomes of the projects as expression of the active reception of the readers. Indeed, all the participants are forced to give a written (usually, verbal) form to their own personal reception of the text. For this reason, I want to study the form of these messages and their relationships with the original text.

My research involves Digital Humanities both theoretically and practically. On a theoretical level, the social reading projects I analyze rely on digital dynamics, the ones upon which Twitter is built. Indeed, during these projects a literary content is elaborated and re-shaped in a digital environment. On the practical level, I need to employ digital tools in order to analyze the large amount of data I collected. More specifically, I will need programs and tools that help me to store and organize them, and, more importantly, that allow me to analyze them (with processes of text analysis and machine learning).