Werner Twertzog– Back from the Dead


Werner Twertzog is back from the void of Twitter deactivation.

My recent entry on Werner Twertzog’s disappearance came a couple of weeks after his June 18 exit, announced on a tweet that I missed at the time and had no access to because upon deactivation, all of his tweets disappear from Twitter’s public interfaces and are reported as nonexistent.


Was Werner Twertzog taking a break? Was he flirting with nonexistence? Was this a brief retirement and comeback, parallel to other artistic resurrection/comebacks? His updated Twitter location references says “Walking the Earth, for a time” (most likely a Pulp Fiction reference to Jules’ retirement from a life of crime to become a wandering adventurer). He announces his return perfectly in character with the following sequence of tweets.

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And judging from the immediate response, there are going to be 21.5 thousand happy followers (myself included). Hopefully we can look forward to many years of sardonic humor.

However, some questions remain from a digital preservation perspective. Will the account be deactivated and disappear again someday? What if Werner Twertzog “goes evil” such as what happened with Dave Chappelle’s fake Twitter persona? I doubt it, given the consistent quality of Werner Twertzog’s performance, but Twitter’s culture of anonymity would certainly allow it. More importantly, how can this work be preserved so that future generations can enjoy this tour de force social media performance?

One possibility is for Werner Twertzog to download his Twitter archive and publish it somewhere or share it with someone experienced and interested in preserving the work’s legacy (hint, nudge). Perhaps the creator(s) will publish this material in print and/or digital formats. We know that Twitter keeps thorough archives, and may once again archive it with the Library of Congress, but public access to the tweets through those repositories is currently uncertain. Another is for readers and fans to screen-capture images of the tweets and share them as more stable digital objects, rather than simply retweet, favorite, or embed the tweets elsewhere. That way, the images of the tweet become legitimate d0cumentation that don’t rely on Twitter to function and will survive an account deactivation or a Twitpocalypse. Another option is for someone to build a program that scrapes all the tweets and creates a database, preserving its data externally. There are several other options, but you get the idea.

So while we know that Werner Twertzog will survive, the point is, who will control access to the archive and memory of this artistic and literary performance? Will it be the artist, the publisher, the corporation, the library, the fans, or the scholars? For now, some of this is in control of whomever is performing Werner Twertzog, and I’m hoping he/she/they choose(s) to take concrete steps towards preserving this artistic legacy.

But whatever decisions are made,