Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

51° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Advertisement
Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Advertisement

Advertisement

Q&A: Sinker’s 140 characters of fame extend through summer

For Evanston resident Dan Sinker, the mounting paranoia finally subsided 2:15 p.m. Feb. 28, when The Atlantic posted an online article outing him as responsible for the famously profane @MayorEmanuel Twitter account.

But the unveiling’s aftermath has proven anything but brief or concise – the 140-character platform’s founding principles.

Sinker landed a book deal with Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in March, agreeing to chronologically arrange his Twitter narrative with retrospective footnotes and some only-in-Chicago definitions. “The F**king Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel” graced bookshelves earlier this month, attracting a surprise appearance by none other than the actual mayor at a Sept. 7 signing event.

And then on the book’s Sept. 13 release date, he accepted an all-too-fitting offer from The Huffington Post: composing a real-time short story on the news site’s Twitter feed in the vein of @MayorEmanuel’s countless arcs. On the book’s blog, Sinker admitted he initially declined the promotional opportunity but quickly reconsidered.

“Of course, for those that know me, you know that I like to experiment and I absolutely view this as exactly that,” he wrote.

Sinker’s fiercely creative streak also earned him a new job title over the summer – heading up the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership after teaching convergent journalism for three years at Columbia College Chicago.

The Daily Northwestern checked in with Sinker last week to discuss his newly released anthology, the real mayor’s fascination with his digital alter ego and @MayorEmanuel’s lasting impact on the Twittosphere.

Daily: In his first year as mayor thus far, do you think the actual Emanuel has come close on occasion to mirroring the @MayorEmanuel personality?

Dan Sinker: Not at all. Actually, I think the closest would be when he raced in the triathlon. That was, uh, a completely surreal thing, but other than that, no, not in the least.

Daily: The Chicago Tribune called your book “a love song” to Chicago. In what ways is the now-legendary journey of @MayorEmanuel something that could only unravel in a city like Chicago?

Dan Sinker: I think that, yeah, much of the story is just about how amazing I think the city is. It really is a kind of love letter to the city. There are huge amounts of it that are just that. But I also think the project is uniquely Chicagoan in the way that I ascribe to a lot of projects that come out of Chicago. Chicago is Turncoat 101, but Chicago is a city that works, right, and I think that a lot of people that do great things in Chicago do it not because they see an angle in it or anything like that; it’s just that they want to do something awesome, and then they go and do it. I think that that was very much how this thing evolved. Just by being like, “This would be awesomely hilarious,” and then it turned out to actually be awesomely hilarious.

Daily: Speaking of the book, the actual mayor showed up at its release party. Do you think the fact that such a prominent figure has physically acknowledged you multiple times goes to show how enduring the @MayorEmanuel story is?

Dan Sinker: It’s still to this day very bizarre to me that he would decide to kind of associate with it. But I think it does kind of show that if you’re a politician, you [can] demonstrate that you’re a good sport. But he is kind of attaching himself to this cultural entity, you know. In the same way that showing up at Hubbard Street Dance does.

Daily: You recently tweeted a sci-fi novella for The Huffington Post. Since your outing, how do you believe you’ve influenced Twitter asan actual medium for short-form literature?

Dan Sinker: I think that there has been a lot of experimentation along the same lines. I think that from direct derivatives, a lot of profane, fake politicians exist on Twitter, especially this past summer, which I think kind of miss the mark. But I think I have seen some interesting examples of storytelling in real time, and I think that – or at least I hope that – that’s one of the enduring lessons of the thing is how much this story intersected with what was happening in the world and how much of that actually added depth to a story that’s just a straight, flat story.

Daily: As a frequent Twitter user yourself, have you spotted any fake accounts since unveiling yourself that could rival the effectiveness of @MayorEmanuel?

Dan Sinker: I haven’t really seen that, but what I have seen is certainly – especially right in the wake of @MayorEmanuel – you had some fake accounts that really jumped in following very, very fast. And I think that was because the phenomenon of @MayorEmanuel had really kind of primed the press for writing about fake Twitter accounts. I think really, specifically, something like the Bronx Zoo cobra that I actually think is funny but was a very, very briefly lived account in terms of effectiveness. But it just rocketed in terms of followers and got a huge amount of press. I think a lot of it was because the press was very attuned to fake Twitter at the time because that was right in the shadow of @MayorEmanuel. I’m constantly seeing people push Twitter in new directions, and I’d like to think some of that is thanks to my work.

[email protected]

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Q&A: Sinker’s 140 characters of fame extend through summer