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Project Twitter Literature (TwitLit) sprang from a question: How is social media changing the shape of the literary world? 

Few (if any) efforts have been made to collect, measure, and study these developing writing communities on social media. There is, however, an increasing urgency for such studies to be undertaken, not least of which is because of the ephemerality of social media data. In fact, in December 2017, the Library of Congress, which began archiving Twitter in 2010, announced that it would no longer collect all Tweets; instead, Tweets produced after December 2017 would only be collected on a selective basis. This situation threatens to produce a gap in the literary-historical record, and it is necessary that literary scholars step in to archive, preserve, and study this burgeoning community.

Project TwitLit seeks to address this gap by analyzing the amateur writing community on Twitter, an increasingly popular global social media platform that privileges short, pithy forms of writing. Project TwitLit has four pimary goals:

  1. The development of tools and detailed instructions to help humanities-focused scholars with Twitter scraping for academic purposes. As part of this goal, Project TwitLit has made available the Twitter scraping tools on GitHub. Detailed documentation simultaneously seeks to establish a consistent, rigorous, and ethical method for scraping and cleaning up Twitter data for the use of humanities scholars.
  2. The preservation of raw data collected from Twitter that is related to the scope of the project (namely, the global writing community on Twitter). Efforts are currently underway to partner with academic libraries to ensure the long-term preservation of such data.
  3. The visualization of Twitter data related to the global writing community. Such visualizations include graphs showing the trends of literary hashtags over time and maps showing the global spread of the Twitter writing community.
  4. The analysis of the global Twitter writing community and an assessment of the implications of this community within the larger context of contemporary literature.

Project TwitLit has received several grants, including a Prototyping Fellowship from the University of Virginia Scholars' Lab and a Mellon Confounding Problem Grant from Bucknell University.

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