On April 19, 1835, James Madison wrote his last will and testament. Madison wrote the following about The Journal of the Debates, his notes from the Constitutional Convention:
- Considering the peculiarity and magnitude of the occasion which produced the convention at Philadelphia in 1787, the Characters who composed it, the Constitution which resulted from their deliberation, it’s effects during a trial of so many years on the prosperity of the people living under it, and the interest it has inspired among the friends of free Government, it is not an unreasonable inference that a careful and extended report of the proceedings and discussions of that body, which were with closed doors, by a member who was constant in his attendance, will be particularly gratifying to the people of the United States, and to all who take an interest in the progress of political science and the cause of true liberty.
On April 19, 2013, we are launching Tweet the Debates on Kickstarter in order to fulfill James Madison's final wishes in today's world of social media communication and interaction. Tweet the Debates is Madison's Journal of the Debates, transformed into tweets. "Twitter Actors", playing the roles of delegates to the Constitutional Convention will tweet their speeches day by day, from the commencement of the Convention on the second Monday in May to the signing on September 17th.
Resource for Studying the Constitution
Each official tweet by a delegate will be linked to the full unedited text of the delegate's speech on the Tweet the Debates, so people can follow the Twitter play with access to the original, unedited text. (Not really unedited, Madison spent over 40 years editing his notes.)
Our online universe already provides some excellent resources about the Constitutional Convention (particularly Teaching American History and the ConText), which have been a tremendous help in the preparation of Tweet the Debates. Through the web app, Tweet the Debates will live after the signing as a fun and useful study tool for Constitutional history. Tweets and their accompanying speeches can be organized by delegate or by any Constitutional clause.
The Tweet the Debates web app will be free and accessible to all, but your Kickstarter support is necessary for it to reach its full potential. That's why Kickstarter Signers and supporters will receive extra benefits, such as access to the Scriptsheet, updates about the production and exclusive ways to get involved.
A Twitter Play
In addition to creating a useful study tool, Tweet the Debates can be an innovative Twitter Play with your support. The Convention - with more than 50 characters arguing, debating, joking, insulting, and finally agreeing over four months - provides a script for a new, real-time performance made possible by social media.
We have turned that script into a ScriptSheet, a Google Drive spreadsheet with all the delegate speeches of the Convention. We've written a default tweet for each speech, and the Twitter Actor will rewrite each tweet into the voice of his or her character. For most Twitter Actors, this ScriptSheet will be less than 25 tweets, as most delegates at the Convention did not speak often.
The Characters Who Composed It
As Madison notes, the Convention was full of Characters, and we are inviting a wide range of Characters to play Twitter Delegates. Law professors, rappers, history bloggers, civics teachers, actors, judges, comedians, Twitter stars and advocates of every political persuasion will use their voices to tell the story of the Constitutional Convention.
The full text of the delegate's speech will be easily accessible. Because Twitter Actors won't have to worry about sticking closely to the text, they will have the freedom for creativity in developing their characters. Tweet the Debates is looking for creative people excited about these possibilities, and your Kickstarter support will help us bring more voices into the project.
One of the best thing about our new social media world is that everybody is creative now and anybody can produce images and ideas that stick in our collective conscious. Tweet the Debates welcomes people communicating through things like photo memes, cat memes - things that are well loved and often shared but rarely respected. With your Kickstarter support, we will encourage more people to share their internet talents for communicating!
You can help build Tweet the Debates into a one-of-a-kind performance!
Web App for Easy Access
The Tweet the Debates web app will provide the best seat in the house for this Twitter play. Avatar Syndicate is developing a web app that will allow anybody a convenient way to follow along. The Tweet the Debates web app will allow anybody, with or without a Twitter handle, to follow different lists of tweets: from just the delegate's tweets linked to community participants using a certain hashtag. Alongside the Twetter feed, the web app will display the proposal under consideration to make following the debates even easier.
Early on, the Convention agreed to meet in secret, but Tweet the Debates will be open to everybody. Twitter offers a unique way to engage more people in discussions about the fundamental questions of our government. Tweet the Debates allows us to imagine how these discussions can be even more inclusive.
People who aren't official delegates will be able to participate by responding to delegate's tweets and giving their own two cents to the questions on the table. Your Kickstarter support will allow us to encourage more participation from more people.
Also, your support in helping spread the word about Tweet the Debates is equally as important as any funding support. Tell your friends! If you are a member of any organization or group that cares about the United States Constitution, or history, or new ways to have discussions, please let them know about Tweet the Debates and encourage the organization to get involved.
Risks and challenges
"No people ever had a fairer opportunity to be what they anxiously wished to be - none ever neglected their interest more." Tristram Dalton, in a letter to John Adams, June 1786
Our biggest challenge is engaging people in an open discussion about law and politics. That can be difficult because many think law and politics are too confusing for regular people and must be left to the despicable experts - the lawyers and the politicians. And some lawyers and politicians have done their best to make law and politics as confusing and uninviting as possible.
The internet provides the opportunity for more understanding about our law and more access to legal and political decision-making than ever before. Now the main obstacle is not whether we can get enough people in a room or print enough law books. The main obstacle is whether people care enough about our law and politics to reclaim them from the experts.
In other words, how do I engage people in this project?
If Tweet the Debates is successful in engaging people in these discussions, there will be issues scaling these discussions. Tweet the Debates is fully prepared for a performance that at least creates summaries of the debates at the Convention, but your Kickstarter support is necessary to run the project for a broad audience.
Finally, one problem in the preparation of the ScriptSheet - what's the best way to deal with voting? Do we want to have a vote every time the Convention voted? There's lots of votes nem. con. - unanimous consent. Should we skip those and hold votes just for questions that are discussed? Give us your input!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Well, it's true I can just tweet the Convention myself. I've already written
tweets for the whole four months & I could schedule the tweets myself with
some more long nights.
But what I can't do myself - why I need your support and funding - is transform my
tweets into an engaging, inclusive discussion that introduces the actual text of
the Constitution and the debates about the Constitution to a large audience.
I don't want to recreate the Convention in my voice alone - I want the arguments
of the delegates to be in your voice, as many different voices as there are
delegates, at least!
This group performance will take a lot more time, to work with 50 or so "Twitter
Actors" to turn Tweet the Debates into an innovative Twitter Play. Your funding will
allow us to hire help to invest the time needed.
Tweet the Debates wants to encourage discussing these fundamental questions of
government in whatever form of internet communication you've mastered. Your
funding will allow us to have open calls to collaborate with artists,
video-makers and others to tell the story of the Convention in all the ways
available to us.
Your funding will allow us to develop better ways to view and participate in
this Twitter Play. Your funding will support an open-source web app to make
following Tweet the Debates easy, as well as any future performances/group
The final proof of Tweet the Debates' need for your funding and support is that
it took this long in the Kickstarter campaign to fund this. Tweet the Debates
is a big project, and it needs your help.
First off, your name will forever live in posterity when your signature is added to the Tweet the Debates poster. This giant infographic will visually communicate how the Constitution grew into the document that brought democracy to the world. We'll use art, tweets, photos and more from the Twitter performance, emphasizing the parts that most engaged all of you. As a Signer, you will receive an electronic copy of this poster.
But more importantly, being a Signer allows you to not just remember, but participate in our Twitter play. Signers will have access to the ScriptSheet - basically a backstage pass to the production of Tweet the Debates. The ScriptSheet contains the original text of the delegates' speeches and the script of "pre-tweets" being given to the Twitter Actors. You can suggest a wise-crack or plan your own tweets.
The ScriptSheet is also a beta version of an open-source educational database. There are a number of excellent sites that host Madison's Journal of the Debates online. The ScriptSheet won't have all the features of these sites, but will allow you more control in navigating and sorting the Constitutional Convention.
Signers will also receive exclusive updates throughout the performance with opportunities to join in the play!
All those benefits of being a Signer are yours if you help Tweet the Debates grow with your $2!
Every one of our Kickstarter rewards make you a Signer!
That reward is targeted to a very limited audience - only those who've ever heatedly argued about politics. The Constitution is often used as a weapon in these arguments - both sides bash the other's ignorance of such an important document!
This reward is a light jab in one of these lifelong arguments. We will politely tease your target and offer to make them a Signer, since they obviously need to understand the Constitution better.
But what starts off as a joke can end up as a discussion, an opportunity to laugh together and learn together.
What both of you will learn is that your side was well-argued at the Convention - that our debates today are debates that started before they even finished calling role. And maybe you'll both learn about what really created the Constitution - compromise.
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