authors | December 18, 2012

Teju Cole: "Twitter Is The Real Stream Of Consciousness"

Social media may indeed be more than just an outlet for sharing what you had for lunch, or funny pictures of animals, according to Teju Cole. "Twitter is the real stream of consciousness," he said at the recent Twitter Fiction Festival. He was chosen to host the event thanks to his creative use of the social media site as a new medium for serial storytelling. In his project Small Fates, Cole embraced digital technology in the creative process by cleverly—and skillfully—using the 140 character word limit to tell compact narratives of life in Lagos, Nigeria. While some may argue that social media sites like Twitter are a threat to traditional literature, Cole treats it instead as a way to revisit the "fait divers," style of the past in a modern way. He uses the platform to share content, he says, but he does so in a more literary way than most.

In a recent lecture he gave at Teachers College, Columbia University, Cole shared his inspiration for the project with students. "I found myself drawn to the 'small' news,'" Cole says in his talk. "I began to read the metro sections of newspapers." His tweets do indeed read like short newspaper stories and headlines, and those who are unaware of what Cole's intentions are with his tweets could certainly be confused. As he explains in the talk, his posts may appear out of context because he does not explain any background detail about them. However, he says that the important part is that people read them and learn something new—even if they may be a bit perplexed by them. "The real agenda of these stories," he tells the audience, "is to open up to the reader an entire world of human experience of which a majority of people are just not aware."

Recently named as one of New York's 100 Most Important Living Writers by Flavorwire, Cole has a very unique narrative style that draws readers in. He is the author of Every Day is for the Thief, and Open City, and is currently working on a new non-fiction project. His knack for telling an alluring story extends off the page and into his stage presence. Whatever the medium, Cole exposes his audiences to exciting, new ways of telling stories.

Up Next

education | December 17, 2012