Progress Report: Historical Twitter Account of Francesco Foscari

The goal of this project is to create a Twitter feed for Francesco Foscari, one of the great political figures from the Republic of Venice. As can be seen in the Gantt Chart below, the project has been divided into four phases:

  1. Research on Francesco Foscari and Venice in the 15th Century.
  2. Research Twitter culture and other historical Twitter accounts.
  3. Build a bank of tweets.
  4. Tweet from @F_Foscari.

Update on Progress

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We have reached week 7, which means that we have reached the beginning of the third phase of this project. We have decided to tweet about the period immediately following Foscari’s election as Doge of Venice in April 1423. Many significant events were occurring at this time both personally and politically for Foscari. There were many processions and ceremonies for both him and his wife; a political crisis was brewing in the Mediterranean; Thessalonica would soon be transferred from Byzantine to the Republic of Venice in the struggle with the Ottoman Empire; and there was still much controversy about Foscari’s election lingering. There is a lot of documentation covering this time period, which will help support the historical accuracy of our account.


Challenges

In general, there have been few obstacles in this project. Our primary challenge was finding and accessing good historical material to support our tweets. Early on we identified “The Likeness of Venice: A Life of Doge Francesco Foscari 1373-1457” by Dennis Romano as one of the primary sources on Foscari’s life. Unfortunately we had trouble accessing this book, as it was late in being returned to the library. Luckily we were able to work on other aspects of the project, including looking at Twitter culture, while we were waiting for the book.


Twitter Culture

When using Twitter as the medium to portray a historical figure, it is important to integrate the cultural aspects of Twitter. Some of these aspects, such as hashtags and emojis, will be easier to integrate than others.

Hashtags are used on Twitter in a few different ways. The original purpose of hashtags, to easily be able to find tweets pertaining to a similar topic, is still used. Often when events are being live-tweeted, users will all use the same hashtag to participate in the conversation. An example of this is shown below, where Barack Obama is tweeting about his healthcare program (Obamacare).

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However, hashtags have evolved on Twitter for two other purposes: online conventions and asides. Online conventions include #tbt (Throwback Thursday) in which users using this hashtag will share a photo or an event from the past. Asides are commentary that a user will provide on their tweet. These can include commonly used abbreviations (e.g. #smh) or simply words to express emotions (#blessed). Both online conventions and asides will be incorporated into our Twitter feed.

Emojis are pictograms that are used in text-speak. They include smileys that convey emotions, and images of objects. They are included in tweets to further convey feelings, or to provide emphasis to the contents of the tweets.


Next Steps

The third phase of this project is the most important, as it involves composing the tweets that will be released over the last month of the project. We have decided to tweet on a nearly equivalent timescale (one day on Twitter is one or two days for Foscari), although there may be some days that are skipped over, in order to cover more events. We will need to get creative in filling in the spaces between what we know about Foscari’s life. We will be using texts about Venetian culture of the time for inspiration.


Bibliography

  • The Likeness of Venice: A Life of Doge Francesco Foscari 1373-1457 by Dennis Romano
  • Venice and Thessalonica 1423-1430: The Venetian Documents by John R. Melville-Jones
  • Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations by Donald M. Nicol
  • Renaissance Essays: The Doge Francesco Foscari by Hugh Trevor-Roper
  • Electing the Doge of Venice: Analysis of a 13th Century Protocol by Miranda Mowbray and Dieter Gollmann
  • Imperialistische Gelüste by Georg Bönisch in Spiegel Geschichte Vol. 3, 2012