A Look at Twitter-based Journal @NeinQuarterly: A Nonexistent Compendium of Utopian Negation
Author and “Internet Aphorist” Eric Jarosinski – or as he is known in the Twitter world, @NeinQuarterly – has done something that many of us can only dream of: he has successfully turned a secret hobby into a career that has made him not only a sought-after speaker and author, but also “Twitter famous.” In addition to maintaining his Twitter page that is fast approaching 100,000 followers, Jarosinski is currently on what he calls his #FailedIntellectual Goodwill Tour, a speaking tour which includes stops in Germany, Sweden, Canada, the U.S. (including Chicago), the Netherlands, and England with more dates to come. Along with a weekly column in well-known German Newspaper Die Zeit, his book, Nein. A Manifesto is set to be published in Germany, the U.S., Finland, England and the Netherlands in 2015. The book will be a furthering of his work on Twitter, but in a longer format.
In 2012, Jarosinski, who is American born, was an assistant professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was attempting to finish a book that he was working on. He discovered Twitter as a way to escape the isolation of his office and desk. “It just came down to the simplicity of a little box, on a little phone, and writing with my fingertips as opposed to the experience of being at my desk, at a laptop and not being able to write anything,” Jarosinki tells F Newsmagazine. As a professor who barely used Powerpoint and who forbade the use of laptops, cell phones or any other technology in his classes, Jarosinski began to tweet obsessively during the first year of @NeinQuarterly’s existence to a very small audience.
Many tweets on @NeinQuarterly come in aphorisms. Jarosinski has been interested in the aphorism as a philosophical form for quite some time, and says that he is inspired by texts such as Walter Benjamin’s One Way Street. “I had interest for a long time in that short form. When I saw Twitter, it became immediately clear to me what one can do with such short, severe limitations in terms of space.” Using the form of the aphorism, Jarosinski began to create what he calls “jokes” that have resulted in a cult-like following on Twitter. These include references to German language and culture, philosophy, art, and anything else of which he has a “surface knowledge.” Instead of scheduling the many tweets that appear every day, he prefers to tweet in the moment, which gives @NeinQuarterly a spontaneous and experimental feel.
Jarosinski, discouraged by his academic life, has recently decided to leave The University of Pennsylvania in order to devote his time to writing for and editing the “non-existent journal” that is his Twitter page, @NeinQuarterly. He describes the journal as a collaborative project between every one of his many followers. When he first started, he had a very small audience and was tweeting much more frequently, but lately he finds himself spending most of his time playing editor to decide what to retweet and what will make it on the page. In that sense, @Neinquarterly has become a compilation of many different thoughts, pictures, fan art, and above all, negativity about generally everything. “Followers have done so many things for me, like giving me a place to stay, designing my avatar, to helping with some of the legal stuff I’ve had to do. All kinds of things. And people send me interesting stuff all the time.”
The #FailedIntellectual Goodwill tour originally started out as a joke that Jarosinski made while traveling in Berlin on a research trip, but quickly became something of an actual world tour when institutions began asking him to come and speak. The tour stopped in Chicago on November 10-11 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul University, as well as the Goethe Institute. The “lecture” was anything but formal – which is exactly the way he wanted it.
What was first an experiment with a rocky start, the tour has brought @NeinQuarterly to a number of different people who are interested in many different types of things, such as ancient archeology, political science, philosophy, art, German language and more. When speaking of the tour, Jarosinski is, as he is on Twitter, somewhat critical of his attempts thus far at speaking about what he is doing and why. But, from the positive responses from listeners at the Chicago talk, he is doing something interesting, new, and clever.
With a new column in a prominent Dutch daily newspaper, advertising projects for Deutsches Haus at NYU, writing for blogs and e-book publishers, and his forthcoming book Nein. A Manifesto, Jarosinski is definitely making a name for himself. Since he is constantly on the lookout for new projects, it will be interesting to see where he will go next.