Individual Work
Reality: Being @SpencerPratt

Reality: Being @spencerpratt, created by Mark Marino and Rob Wittig, is now a website that exhibits their takeover of American reality television personality Spencer Pratt's Twitter account in 2013. Spencer Pratt was on Celebrity Big Brother at the time and allowed Mark and Rob to take over his Twitter account of around 1 million followers to silently encourage poetry and e-literacy to a wide variety of people. What these two men did is considered netprov, an emerging category of performance art taking place primarily on social media networks with different people interacting to create a shared narrative. Internet improv, better known as netprov, creates stories that are networked, collaborative and created in real time. It encourages and incorporates participation from its readers and is experienced as a performance as it is published that is read later as a literary archive. The authors who do this portray the characters they create, as Marino and Wittig started to do with Spencer and netprov is usually satirical as it was in this case as well. Those who engaged with “Spencer’s” tweets did not know they were a part of this large narrative, but they were actively engaging in netprov. Through the tweets, Marino created an exaggerated story of a celebrity’s cell phone being lost and discovered by a struggling British poet who is using the account to promote his poetry or just poetry in general. Most of Pratt's followers did not know if this story was fact or fiction. Still, many took part in modern English poetry games through different hashtags and posted their pieces of art under it in a stream of tweets that created this larger narrative as Marino and Wittig had hoped. In an interview with Kate Durbin, Mark Marino mentions that this project helped them bring netprov to a huge audience that had probably never been exposed to it and playing with Spencer’s image was a lure to bring people to it. As a reality tv start, Spencer lives a kind of netprov and people think they are always getting to see the “real” him, which for celebrities can not always be the case. Reality: Being @spencerpratt has reportedly been one of the most read and interacted with works of electronic literature to date. This project was designed to question authenticity and identity on social media platforms and how gullible people can be when they are unsure about the truth behind who is on the other side of the screen, whether it be a celebrity or not.

Of Spencer Pratt's million Twitter followers, they were dedicated people who came to play the poetry games every day. The poet creating these games allowed Pratt's followers to make their poems based on his outlines. Those who interacted with these games were known as the Tempspence poets. The unknown ‘poet’ went under the alias of @Tempspence (temporary Spencer), so those are the people Spencer Pratt’s followers believed they were interacting with. Tempspence became its account once Pratt 'regained access' to his Twitter account. The followers actively engaged with future games there as they enjoyed them so much that they were willing to continue even off Pratt’s personal account. Although many of the games are now archived, this stream of games took place in 2013 and can still be found on Tempspence's website to see every tweet sent out by Marino and Wittig and even all the different responses by his followers. It was a three-week period that this was all going on; these two men created games inspired by the Surrealists and the Oulipo (Ouvroir de literature potentielle). Each game had its own hashtag and description later posted on a Tumblr blog. There were several games posted created with the hashtag #Centode, #Ekphrastic, #ImSpencer, #JungBro, #MyCelebrityBigBrother, #PrattFall, #PrattPlus7, #Shibboleth, #TwitterChain, and #Twouplets.

Marino and Wittig created a space for interactive fiction where Twitter users could interact with people worldwide in different activities surrounded by poetry and literature. If these games were posted on someone who was not as famous, they more than likely not have gotten as much engagement; they were clever as to the way they went about promoting it. Those who would like to read more about the games posted are encouraged to look at the Tempspence website, where everything about this project has been recorded and posted and dating back to Spencer Pratt's Twitter page, where everything is posted. In an age of social media as the main source, of well, everything, Marino and Wittig created a space for people of all ages to engage in an interactive space where they could engage in literature where they may not have done otherwise. Although the feed of games is set back to 2013, there is no reason why someone could not actively engage with it today on their own. I, myself, played the game of Twitter Chain and created sentences I thought would best suit the one before my own; this game allowed Tempspence’s ‘poets’ to create their own story interactively and participate in story writing in a fun way.

Author statement: 
Reality: Being @SpencerPratt is a meditation on the pursuit of fame through the exploitation of our lives, as much about Instagram fame as television infamy. It was an indulgent dip into bathos, the coupling of popular and poetic cultures. It was also the first of several collaborations with Spencer and his wife Heidi (or Speidi), including SpeidiShow and the forthcoming Baby Seals, in which we explored the edges of contemporary reality entertainment as it blurs the line between planned performance and personal revelation. Being @SpencerPratt represented our largest (in terms of reach) netprov to that point, following on the heels of our year-and-a-half-long work @occupymla. Above all, this project pursued one of Rob’s lifelong desires, to create occasions in which the contemporary laborer in her cubicle could contribute to an art project even on her 15 minute break through a platform where the 140-character limit turns us all into writer’s wrestling with constraint in collaborative performative and personal play.