Piret Viires (Tallinn University)

New Creative Practices: Alt Lit – Social Media Literature

Keywords: digital literature, social media, Alt Lit, Estonian literature, poetry

Since the years 2006–2007 we have witnessed a massive emergence of new creative practices that are linked with the development and spread of social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr). In terms of literature we can see emerging new forms of literature like twitterature, Facebook and Tumblr poetry, collective Facebook serial stories, stories on Wattpad etc. These kinds of literary works are created using the advantages of Web 2.0. The authors do not need any specific technological or programming skills and the social media environments provide good and accessible platforms both for authors as well as readers.

This kind of literature created via social media is characterised by democratising literary production, dialogue between participants, textual and narrative dynamics, and mixing of various forms of media. According to the periodisation of digital literature, we can define such kind of literary works as the third generation of digital literature (cf Viires 2017).

The paper will discuss one example of the third generation digital literature – so-called Alt Lit (Alternative Literature). The term came into circulation in the United States in 2010 and Adam Hammond (2016) describes Alt Lit as a community, medium or style. Alt Lit is published and circulated on the internet and the authors are extremely active users of social media. The texts are often collaborative, and are edited based on feedback from readers (Hammond 2016: 142). The authors of Alt Lit have created strong and visible authorial images and as Adam Hammond puts it “its best-known practitioners tend to be those who spend the most time online” (Hammond 2016: 144).

In my paper I am also discussing if the works of some Estonian authors can be associated with the term Alt Lit. These authors – Kaur Riismaa, Liina Tammiste and Keiti Vilms – have all used social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) for their creative work and are challenging the boundaries of literature.

However, we can say that the real challenge for the social media literature authors is not so much how to get the texts published online. The real challenge is to find readers and reach the right audience.

Social media literature is a growing phenomenon and has changed the ideas about traditional literature. The questions to be addressed are: the change of the role of the reader and author; the role of online publishing; the importance of visibility; the changes in textual practices; the possible combination of oral culture with written literature; the phenomenon of hybridity.

I also argue that the concepts of „participatory culture“ (Jenkins 2006) and „digimodernism“ (Kirby 2009) are relevant for analysing Alt Lit. But the central questions that come into focus when we are discussing Alt Lit are the following: how to distinguish professionalism and amateurship and what are the borders of literature and literariness?


Hammond, A. (2016). Literature in the Digital Age. An Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, Bloggers, Gamers. Exploring Participatory Culture. New York, London: New York University Press.

Kirby, A. (2009). Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure our Culture. New York, London: Continuum.

Viires, P. (2017). Digitaalse kirjanduse defineerimisest ja periodiseerimisest. – Philologia Estonica Tallinnensis, 2, 129−145.