Freelance writer Amanda Hirsch, former editorial director of PBS Interactive, blogs about documentaries and the Web in her column, Outside the Frame.
The beauty of nature, the gruesomeness of war…and Facebook status updates? Yes, Facebook can now count itself among the muses of history, having inspired Wisconsin artist Stacey Williams-Ng to create a series of paintings showcasing her friends’ answers to the Facebook prompt, “What are you doing right now?”
Molly E. is hot for Robert Frost.
Rafiq A: Spring… the end of my winter of discontent or just the next pithy chapter?
To learn more about the paintings, read this article from Mashable, or visit the artist’s website.
This series got me thinking — if status updates can inspire paintings, what other forms of art can they inspire? Imagine, for example, crafting a documentary by collecting people’s status updates, from either Facebook or Twitter — after all, as filmmaker Louis Abelman opined earlier this year, here on this very blog:
Certainly you can observe a lot about someone by reading the accumulation of in-the-moment information they have left behind in tweets. In that sense, it is similar to vérité.
Let’s use a friend of mine — I’ll call her “Abby” — as an example. Here are her “tweets” (Twitter updates) from over the weekend:
Sometimes perspective, wine and a good meeting are all you need.
That just made me want to cry.
You have got to be kidding me.
Tried to find individual tweet to sell Troy on value of Twitter. Failed. Overall trust/cred of community u create. Want T in that community.
I am so thrilled that the man I am seated next to for the next 5 hours of my life can acquire sustenance inside his nose.
Lying awake for past hour thinking about conversations I need to have and conversations I wish I could have. I think I’ll just start my day.
Just did my mother’s day call to mom. Talked to step dad longer. I try. I try.
Step dad in response to me saying Mom never calls, “She thinks she annoys you.” Me, “She does.”
If a camera were following Abby instead, how much of this information would it have captured? What would it have missed? What is Abby leaving out?
Imagine watching these events — the meeting, the lying in bed, the phone call — with the option to view her Tweets simultaneously on screen. Or inviting an animator to imagine what Abby looks like, based only on her verbal online persona, and animating a documentary about her life.
Facebook and Twitter are full of stories. Do these stories warrant a documentarian’s attention? Or are they just digital detritus?