twitter art feature image

Twitter’s new format cuts off artists—but they’re adapting.

Twitter artist Matt Haggett (@tw1tt3rart) has just launched a new site to feature his best and most recent pieces of ASCII art.

The only problem is, some of his most memorable works will  never make it to the site because they’ve been destroyed or altered, thanks to Twitter’s new interface.

“The affected art does include some gems, like the Two And A Half Men #TwitterArt that Ashton Kutcher retweeted immediately after his debut in that show,” Haggett told the Daily Dot. “But that is the way it goes. Twitter changes.”

All in all, Haggett has seen four months worth of art sullied by the new interface. The changes have also affected artists like Anna Maria Bonanese (@karen_eliot) and Gregory Wadsworth (@aggregart), who explained how the altered art is a result of Twitter expanding its column width.


As a result, older pieces of art tend to show up only when opened in a new window and not when viewed in a Twitter timeline, which is the case with Haggett’s Two And A Half Men tweet (timeline view, single page). In this instance, the timeline view distorts the image so six men show up, instead of the intended two and half (as seen in the single page tweet).

“Old 15-character width will now only work in the detail view,” Wadsworth told the Daily Dot. “All the tweet-artists will have to switch to a 16+ character width.”

The new Twitter also means that art created using the website may look distorted on a mobile phone, and vice versa, Haggett said. This poses a peculiar problem for Twitter artists since about 37 percent of tweeters use the service on their phones.

While Twitter artists are just beginning to realize how fragile their work is to Internet changes, the folks over at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., are well versed in the perils of ASCII art.

“In the 80s and 90s, a lot of people created various ASCII art that when they updated it with different widths it ended up messing the whole thing up,” said museum curator Chris Garcia, who specializes in art, music, and art. “It’s a problem that existed for a long time.”

Art preservation has been a problem on the Internet ever since the Internet was born, Garcia said. The best way to preserve a piece of art is by printing it out—or in the case of Twitter—taking a screen grab, he added.

“Any static form is going to be your most safe preservation medium,” Garcia said. “If you want a longer preservation, you have to have multiple forms that are not platform dependent. That becomes a very difficult problem.”

And yet despite the hundreds of pieces of lost art, Haggett and Bonanase believe the changes to Twitter are for the best. Because they believe that Twitter art is more than just about the tweets. It’s also about the challenge of working in a medium that’s always changing.

“At first when I heard the news, I had not given much importance to it, but when I saw what was happening, I was a little sorry,” Bonanese told the Daily Dot. “However, patience. We go forward!”

Image by Matt Haggett


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