The medium was not anything like the message. The Shorty Awards, held last night at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, honored the best short-form content of 2008 (with short-form content being the 140-word posts on Twitter) in a ceremony that was actually quite long and drawn out. Though in keeping with the spirit of the form, acceptance speeches were limited to 140-characters. It's anybody's guess as to what a top Twitterer is, but other Twitterers voted on it, so at least it was democratic.
The crowd chatter before the show was a veritable dissertation in inanity. The words "tweet," "Twitter," "twit" and other infuriatingly cutsey lingo were uttered so often as to make one think he was lost in endless tape loop of "Rockin Robin" playing at variable speeds, and guys in cheap suits pontificated about how brands could reach the community.
The nascent media platform might have officially hit the wall for self-refracted absurdist art when the show's Twitter feed was projected onto a screen, pre-ceremony while the The Tin Pan Blues Band played (@tinpanband). Many of the people posting were in the room of course, or watching streaming video of the screen on their computers, and most of the posts (or Tweets as they are somewhat maddeningly referred to) had to do with Twitter, or specifically self-examined the actual posts themselves. Sample post: "Ha Ha, my tweet is on the screen at Shorty. That's funny." Welcome to a world where the news cycle is about 20 seconds long and you are the top story.
The naval gaze lifted once the show actually started and host Rick Sanchez from CNN (who is known for using Twitter on-air and Twitters from @ricksanchezcnn) took the stage. He told the Twittering Class, "You are my sources; you are my reporters; you are my assignment editors," to raucous cheers from the packed house. Then about halfway through, he was surreally supplanted by MC Hammer (@mchammer) who presented the remainder of the awards, the first of which was in the music category and went to Hunter Burgan (@tranquilmammoth), the bassist from AFI (whose claim to fame is that he is not engaged to Zooey Deschanel).
The awards are the brainchild of Saw Horse Media, creators of Musbin (one-line music reviews) and News Groper (a collection of fake blogs), and hopefully the motivation is not a crass monetization, but that's probably overly optimistic. The nicest thing about Twitter might be that it's a grassroots medium nobody has quite figured out a way to make money off of yet. Not even the guys who created it.