Friday, 23 August 2013

Virtual Songlines and Our Online Narrative

                                     Image retrieved from:
As I have continued to lurk around the social network that is Twitter over the past week I have discovered that the ‘Twitterverse’, much like other social networking communities, is a narrative that is constantly being written through its users. Narratives are stories that have continuously shaped human history throughout the course of its existence. They are used for both entertainment and information and continue to be a very important part of human life today.

As said by Van Luyn (2013) in our lecture this week we are constantly writing our own narratives every day through what we do and say. However, as we become more and more technologically-dependant as the generations pass, social networks are playing a huge part in how we shape our narratives daily. Due to this;

“if we accept Donna Harraway’s premise that what we understand is human is indeed a product of cultural and technological innovations in combination, making us cyborgs… in many applications where users fill in the blanks or check boxes as mandated by the site’s program, it may be difficult to determine where the human leaves off and the software begins.” (McNeill, 2012)

Twitter consistently creates a feeling of ‘cyborg users’ as people are able to ‘tweet’ anything and everything they want, and there is no one there to pull them up on what is true and what is not. Our narrative becomes somewhat of a cyborg-like story as part of us is being created within these online communities, and the other part of us is created in the outside world. If you are interested you are able to continue to read this article by Laurie McNeill (2012) in which social networking and our self-narrative and discussed in great depth
What we say on Twitter spreads our story rapidly, as tweets can be ‘retweeted’ by the people who follow us. These retweets share our story with others and open it up to interpretation from the people who come across it and read it themselves.

This can be likened to the Aboriginal songlines, which describe the way that the aboriginal community believed “each totemic ancestor, while travelling through the country was thought to have scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the lines of his footprints. (Chatwin, 1987).
These served as a line of communication between clans as they would come across these songlines, which to avoid and which belonged to their own clan. Much like this, Twitter users are essentially creating their own ‘virtual songline’ through the sharing of posts and information around the social network.Therefore, when a Twitter user comes across a retweet, depending on the virtual songline it belongs to they are able to interpret it and decide whether it is part of their ‘clan’ or community or whether to avoid it.
“But as long as he stuck to the track, he’d always find people who shared his Dreaming?” (Chatwin, 1987).
By sticking to tweets and retweets that are similar to yours you are able to connect with people who share a similar story and share similar interests. However, this sharing does not occur unless this part of the social network is engaged with. It is best understood when we look again at the Aboriginal culture;

“Aboriginals could not believe the country existed until they could see and sing it- just as, in the Dreamtime, the country had not existed until the ancestors sang it.” (Chatwin, 1987).  

I believe that by engaging with this social network and building your own virtual songlines through interactions with others in the community you are able to become a part of these communities and continuously construct your online narrative.
Chatwin, B. (1985). Chapter 3 (p11-15) in  The Songlines. Australian Aborigines – Social life and customs. Jonathan Cape Limited, London.
McNeill, L.(2012). THERE IS NO “I” IN NETWORK: SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES AND POSTHUMAN AUTO/BIOGRAPHY. Biography 35.1. Biographical Research Centre
Van Luyn, A. (2013) BA1002: Our Space: Networks, Narrratives and The Making Of Place, Lecture 4: Narrative. [Notes] Retrieved from:
Image Credits:
National Film and Sound Archive. (2008). Retrieved from:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rebecca,

    How do you think McNeill's argument and description of Facebook applies to Twitter? Are twitterers as constructed by the machine as Facebook users are?