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November 24 , 2009

TVO to inject literacy into the Twitterverse
Author to Tweet new work of fiction

TVO has enlisted award-winning Canadian author Tish Cohen, to inject a literary voice into the emoticon-, acronym-riddled Twitterverse and to show that literacy is alive and well in the digital age. Beginning today, Cohen will tweet her newest work of fiction in its entirety, 140 characters at a time, to support the world premiere of Empire of the Word, airing on TVO starting Wednesday, November 25.

The four-part TVO-commissioned epic documentary series depicts the 5,000-year evolution of the written word and addresses the challenges and opportunities of literacy in the age of technology. Cohen's Twitter story launch is an unorthodox use of the popular micro blogging site which, through its proliferation of shorthand notation, symbols and acronyms, stands in stark contrast to standard literary conventions or prose.

"When TVO approached me with the concept to write a new piece of fiction specifically for Twitter, I was intrigued," says Cohen. "I knew that it would challenge my writing process because readers would consume it in a completely different way, 140 characters at a time. But, it feels so relevant to where we are today and I wanted to show how technology can support the evolution of the written word, and prove that meaningful stories can be found where you least expect them."

At 2,300 words, Cohen's Littleman tells of a poet's search for well-priced galoshes after a plow leaves behind a sopping dyke of blackened snow that blocks him from his own front door. What he finds is something he needs much more than footwear. Littleman will be published exclusively on Twitter by TVO (www.twitter.com/tvo) over the course of two weeks - and about 100 tweets. TVO will periodically incorporate questions inspired by key themes in Empire of the Word, with a view to inspire online conversations about literacy.

Following the story's Twitter micro-serialization, HarperCollinsCanada will release Littleman as its first original e-book, which will be available via digital retailers in mid-December.

"TVO's Twitter campaign is putting the spotlight on the impact of technology on the written word and challenging our perceptions of reading in the digital age, which brings to life key themes from Empire of the Word," says Steve Rayment, TVO's Director of Marketing. "We want to show Ontarians that, even though you may not expect it, you can find a complete story, and beautiful prose, in the Twitterverse."

Hosted by renowned Canadian-Argentine author Alberto Manguel and based on his History of Reading (Viking, 1996), Empire of the Word explores how reading and writing were born; how we learn to read; who or what might prevent us from reading; and the future of reading. Eight years in the making and shot in 15 countries, the four-part series journeys from prehistory to present day and beyond, illustrating how reading and writing are inextricably linked to human evolution and existence.

TVO's Twitter story to promote Empire of the Word marks the third and final act in a season-long campaign developed by Leo Burnett, to raise awareness for TVO and two of its documentary programs on the fall schedule: Empire of the Word and The Universe of Keith Haring.

To promote the documentary The Universe of Keith Haring, TVO deployed a guerilla public art event in downtown Toronto in early November, featuring two-dimensional graphic art installations, inspired by Keith Haring's original works. The award-winning documentary on the pop art icon showcases Haring as making one of the most visible attempts by an artist in recent history to broaden the public's interest in art, and to bypass the network of galleries and museums by which artists have always had to establish their careers.

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