By the time #KU_WWI characters like @ArchdukeFranzi and @G_Princip1914 began the LIVE Tweetenactment on June 28th, many had already been introduced through a series of vignettes we like to call “Mini Tweetenactments.”
In #SafetyFirst, the governor of Bosnia and police commissioner of Sarajevo introduced audiences to security concerns in Sarajevo. #Conspiracy acquainted followers with the assassins and their plot, and #WhySarajevo explored the reasons for the Archduke’s visit to Bosnia. #All4USophie, one of the more popular mini tweetenactments, shared words written by the Archduke to his morganatic wife, Duchess Sophie – their romance arguably being one of the greatest in the 20th century. #BlankCheck illustrates how war between Serbia and Austria had been fomenting long before the assassination of the Archduke on June 28th. And #IheartBosnia features an ensemble of characters as they tweeted about their lives in the months, weeks, and days before the fateful summer day in 1914.
The main characters in these mini tweetenactments were created by #KU_WWI staff. Each account took about 30 minutes to create, and in order to keep the accounts active, #KU_WWI staff had to regularly sign-in as each character and monitor their twitter accounts. In order to generate interest in the project, #KU_WWI staff made it a point of following each twitter account that followed @KU_WWI leading to some very funny responses.
While building a following for the project, #KU_WWI staff also worked on developing the voice and perspective of each character using sources like Greg King and Sue Woolmans’ The Assassination of the Archduke and Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers. We tried to humanize each character by adding personality quirks – for example, the #Conspiracy mini tweetenactment not only conveys a group of disenfranchised, radicalized youth but also illustrates the carefree and loose-lipped nature of assassin Nedeljko Čabrinović – an increasing source tension between he and his more taciturn friend, Gavrilo Princip (King and Woolmans, pg 177).
While we tried as often as possible to use historically accurate quotes (with some artistic license for fitting the quote into 140-characters), we made an early decision that each character embody an overarching (even though sometimes fictional) “truthiness” instead of a purely biographical representation or controversially factual truth. Some characters represented whole factions of ideas or movements, as in the case of Serbian Chief of Intelligence Dragutin Dimitrijević and what we set up to be his Austro-Hungarian counterpart in General Conrad von Hötzendorf. Others, like the world leaders, represented the majority consensus of whole countries.
Some of the quotes or sentiments we tried to express actually came from people never mentioned during the course of the project. Making a twitter account for each and every person involved in these events would have been highly impractical, so instead we used the account of a character that more than likely agreed with this person’s opinion. A good example of this is in the mini tweetenactment #IheartBosnia where @CommishGerde shares specific concerns about safety in Sarajevo — these concerns were actually voiced to Duchess Sophie on the night before the assassination by Dr. Josip Sunaric, vice president of the Bosnian diet (King and Woolmans, pg 194).
While the mini tweetenactments were intended to introduce the main characters involved in these events and educate about their lives preceding June 28th, 1914, they had the additional benefit of inspiring volunteers to create their own characters and share new and often creatively unique perspectives.
By the time of the LIVE Tweetenactment, community members had created Twitter accounts for Little Zophie, the Archduke’s daughter, her tutor Otto Lev Stanovsky, the chauffer for Archduke Ferdinand’s car in Sarajevo, and even the car itself. Occasionally audience members even heard from Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I’s beard.
One of the most popular community-created characters was fictional pastry chef Dmitrije Stefanovic. Known as @KingofCevapi, Dmitrije personified that of the innocent bystander – just a man trying to make a living in Sarajevo as a Serb business owner while all of these events unfolded around him. It was this character that coined the phrase #franzophie, that became so popular in the Washington Post article about Duchess Sophie’s romance with Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
In the weeks before June 28th, #KU_WWI staff turned over certain main characters to volunteers who would LIVE tweet the assassination. This gave the community members time to research their character and also pick up the tone of that character’s twitter account before the LIVE Tweetenactment.
Each volunteer was asked to research, add, embellish, explain, retweet and respond – a significant commitment for those who were just volunteering. Each participant also had to reflect on how to be creative while still honoring the memory of the people involved in these events. Each had to decide where to draw the line between engaging audiences with creativity and educating audiences about the significance of this tragedy — a decision heavily influenced by their sincere and genuine interest in and enthusiasm for World War I history.
On June 28th, LIVE Tweeters represented: @ArchdukeFranzi, @Duchess_Sophie, @GovPotiorek1914, @SarajevoMayor, @CommishGerde, @G_Princip1914, @N_Cabrinovic, @C_Popovic and they were joined by the community-made accounts @luckystift1911, @LeopoldLojka, @Little_Zophie, @Fr_Stanovsky, @Emperors_Beard, and @KingofCevapi.
A big thank you to our LIVE tweeters who brought these characters to life!
The Storify of their LIVE Tweetenactment will be posted on Monday, July 28th, 2014. Stay tuned!
Click here to learn more about the #KU_WWI Twitter Project.