A typical Twitter feed is a stream of letters and words. There is photo-sharing, and plenty of it, but Twitter isn't meant for album-making (that's a job for Facebook, Flickr, Imgur, etc.); it's meant for real-time, text-based, 140-character updates.
And yet, every now and then, tweets like this one pop up:
⠀ ⠀ ✨ 🌟 🌟 💥 💫 ✨ ✨ ✨ 🌟💥 💥 💫🌟 ✨ 🌟 🌟 💥 ✨ ✨ 🌟💥 💥 💫 🌟 ⠀ ⠀— ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ (@artonaline) July 8, 2014
Welcome to the world of Twitter art, a whimsical, boundless space dominated by image-generator bots and ASCII character codes and hand-drawn cartoons. Twitter art appears unexpectedly in streams. Twitter art is experimental. Twitter art even interacts with other Twitter art.
But Twitter art is also hard. Its creators face a tricky challenge: They work on a site designed primarily for posting limited text, so users rarely stop and stare at tweets the way they might pause to appreciate other visual art forms. "Twitter is not the best platform for sharing art because of its presentation," G.P. Lackey, an artist and one of the creators behind the bot @GenerateACat, says. "It's difficult because it has a constantly changing current."
Lackey and his fellow @GenerateACat creator Bronson Zgeb use the simplest method—uploading images through a bot—to get around Twitter's 140-character parameters. They treat the account like an online gallery-slash-laboratory that updates whenever a batch of new images are available. And there are hundreds of images they can feed into the account at a time. Each "cat" is created based on a combination of randomized characteristics, including color, shape, expression, and even whisker length. Add a randomly generated phrase to include with the cat, and voilà, a cat, generated:
I just realized a rubbish cat pic.twitter.com/g7NC7K28re— Generate A Cat Bot (@GenerateACat) January 1, 2015
The bots-and-online-gallery method is a popular approach. There are bots similar to @GenerateACat that make variations of one image (@GenerateAFace makes faces, @OmgGeospheres makes 3-D-looking faces), bots that create wholly random images (@GreatArtBot makes pixelated art), and bots that tweet archival content (@BookImages grabs historical images from books in the Internet Archive).