Yo Will !: Dezzy & Emilia text it out

It is the end of the school year and the exams and assignments are rolling in. One of my students who is doing a n independent ENG4U course was required to compose a contemporary media conversation based on dialogue & situation from  Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Othello“. This is  part of what she produced.

Emilia: hey dez, i really have 2 talk 2 u! Msg me when you come online. (3:05pm)

Dezzy: what up em? Hope it’s not something serious lol i totally bombed a math test today and i’m not really in the mood for any more bad stuff. (3:35pm)

Emilia: well i hate 2 b the bearer of bad news… (3:36pm)

Dezzy: tell me! (3:36pm)

Emilia: kay,when school ended today i was supposed to be meeting up with iago so he could walk me home (not like he seems to enjoy it) and i found him in a pretty heated conversation with othello. I wanted 2 no what they were talking about so i hid and listened.(3:39pm)

I saved the full version as a pdf. Re-imagining of Shakespeare’s works has been going on for a long time. This is quite fitting, considering how much of the Bards work was inspired/borrowed from earlier sources. If students can take the current vernacular and use  their own media literacy to express their understanding of older more established forms of literature should we not give them that opportunity.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we introduce media literacy for the 21st century.

Of course a further challenge would then to explore with your students what is lost and gained in this re-interpretation. How does the contemporary language and its related cultural values, beliefs & ideologies alter the message ? In what way does the codes and conventions of the medium construct a different reality ? Has the target audience been changed ?  Will would want know how you would make a living using this medium to tell the story – identify a business interest/model using the TOAD triangle.


Shakespeare’s Sonnets III & XXIX

A presentation to demonstrate visual literacy and the media principle, “ All mass media constructs reality” . The choice of images and their combination creates a context  that extends the sonnet.  The messages of the sonnet has now been modified by this context (constructed reality). In doing so the following media principles have been demonstrated.

All mass media contain values and beliefs.

All mass media contain intended and unintended messages.

This exercise is an example of how we can engage students in media literacy and related visual literacy skills. We can then connect media literacy skills to our specific subject material and related areas of knowledge & understanding and skills & application.

In this case, the first step is to get the students to interpret the sonnet in terms of the extended context. How have the graphic, colours, and images influenced the interpretation of the sonnets. The next step is to get the students to create their own visual context and explain how it impacts on the poetry. Next would be for the students to work with other poetry they have studied.

Extended activity could include the following areas:

A. popular songs-lyrics – 1. cover art and CD packaging  2. music video

B. Haiku and Haiga

C. Students generate their own poetry and produce their own graphics.

Here are two other examples of visual literacy applied to theatre / drama.


For more information on how these images were produced and used see my photo blog post: News from the Front Lines .

Such Tweet Sorrow

I have been waiting for this  for quite a while. When a new medium arises it takes  time for its innate structure (Codes and Conventions) to be discovered and understood. As the users of the medium come to understand, and then master these Codes and Conventions,  new creative and artistic forms come into existence.

An example of this can be found on  Twitter and at the Such Tweet Sorrow site.  The Royal Shakespeare Company, working withMudlark ( a producer of mobile phone games, ARGs,  virtual world experiences, digital arts adventures and social network narratives),  have created  the first social network theatrical production.

As the title suggests, this production is based on Shakespeare’s  Romeo and Juliet. Over five weeks of this performance, the audience can see, read, and participate in the Twitter updates – thoughts, messages, links or confessions – of Romeo, Juliet and four other characters.

The six actors generate their own dialogue, based on a script outline. The audience can interact/comment directly if they have a Twitter account.  This is a natural outcome of the medium. The codes and conventions of a  Social Network include real-time entries and interaction and participation.

In a way, Roz Chast’s   ” The I.M.s of Romeo and Juliet” , a satirical cartoon for The New Yorker magazine, anticipates Such Tweet Sorrow. Chast’s work is a commentary on compression and speed of Instant Messaging.  He humorously reduces the play to a few lines.

Romeo and Juliet – Text Messaging Version

Act 1

Login: Romeo : R u awake? Want 2 chat?
Juliet: O Rom. Where4 art thou?
Romeo: Outside yr window.
Juliet: Stalker!
Romeo: Had 2 come. feeling jiggy.
Juliet: B careful. My family h8 u.
Romeo: Tell me about it. What about u?
Juliet: ‘m up for marriage f u are.. Is tht a bit fwd?
Romeo: No. Yes. No. Oh, dsnt mat-r, 2moro @ 9?
Juliet: Luv U xxxx
Romeo: CU then xxxx

Act 2

Friar: Do u?
Juliet: I do
Romeo: I do

Act 3

Juliet: Come bck 2 bed. It’s the nightingale not the lark.
Romeo: OK
Juliet: !!! I ws wrong !!!. It’s the lark. U gotta go. Or die.
Romeo: Damn. I shouldn’t hv wasted Tybalt & gt banished.
Juliet: When CU again?
Romeo: Soon. Promise. Dry sorrow drinks our blood. Adieu.
Juliet: Miss u big time.

Act 4

Nurse: Yr mum says u have 2 marry Paris!!
Juliet: No way. Yuk yuk yuk. n-e-way, am mard 2 Rom.

Act 5

Friar: Really? O no. U wl have 2 take potion that makes u look ded.
Juliet: Gr8

Act 6

Romeo: J-why r u not returning my texts?
Romeo: RUOK? Am abroad but phone still works.
Romeo: TEXT ME!
Batty: Bad news. J dead. Sorry l8

Act 7

Romeo: J-wish u wr able 2 read this…am now poisoning & and climbing in yr grave. LUV U Ju xxxx

Act 8

Juliet: R-got yr text! Am alive! Ws faking it! Whr RU? Oh…
Friar: Vry bad situation.
Juliet: Nightmare. LUVU2. Always. Dagger. Ow!!! Logout

The reality is that the events would have stretched out, as in the original play  and the Twitter production. Notice that reading the above text-dialogue would be tedious if it was extended.  The Codes and Conventions of texting and tweeting  include the real-time interaction and compressed messages.

Just as Shakespeare’s work was intended to be enjoyed as a live stage performance, the texting/tweeting performance has its own intended platform. It is best enjoyed as a daily/serialized experience ,which the audience can  immerse themselves in through direct participation.

This 21st century audience expect to interact with the content of the message and shape or add to it, unlike Shakespeare’s intended audience, who would observe from the outside and only respond with applause, laughter, or hisses and boos. This new Social Network audience want entertainment that let’s them enter a Constructed Reality (like a novel or a play), participate as in a game,  and interact as in a conversation. They also want to be creators and producers of media/art.

When we  take these expectations and look at technological media trends such as the Wii, Touch Screen, and 3D movies and computer graphics,  Star Trek’s holodeck & holo-novels and Matrix’s virtual reality doesn’t seem that far off.

Educational Notes:

1.Text Messaging and Chat abbreviation.

2.  Ponder on this:  How do educators adapt their teaching modes to the Social Networking audience ?

3. There are a number of lesson plans and ideas based on Romeo and Juliet – Text Messaging Version.

Here is one example: Star-Crossed Lovers Online: Romeo and Juliet for a Digital Age