Zittrain: Welcome, every­body. I think we can pay the high­est com­pli­ment from our cam­pus to you, which is a total­ly full room on a sum­mer day.

Sun: Yes…

Zittrain: That’s quite extra­or­di­nary.

Sun: Thank you for com­ing out.

Zittrain: And Jon was actu­al­ly curi­ous and I am too about who’s in our room. We have a num­ber of peo­ple I think lis­ten­ing online. But let’s just slice and dice it. How many folks gen­er­al­ly turnout for Berkman Klein Center stuff so you’re turn­ing out for this, too? How many peo­ple gen­er­al­ly turn out for Johnny Sun stuff so you’re turn­ing out for this, too?

Sun: Oh, hey. Okay.

Zittrain: So the soft­ball teams cre­ate them­selves. How many peo­ple have fol­lowed Jonny on Twitter for at least a week? Alright, that’s…everybody. The rest of you, you have your chance. Any oth­er demo­graph­ic ques­tions we want­ed to ask?

Sun: I think that’s great. Yeah.

Zittrain: That sort of gets us start­ed.

Sun: How about are you hav­ing a good day today? Alright, yay!

Zittrain: It just got bet­ter.

Sun: Yeah!

Zittrain: How many of you con­sid­er your­selves an alien? Alright. We could revote at the end.

Sun: Yeah, alright.

Zittrain: And we thought in the spir­it— Often torts is taught in this room. So in the spir­it of tort, not that of injury but of Latin, we have a prin­ci­ple called res ipsa loquitur” which is the thing speaks for itself.” So we thought to start us off we might do a lit­tle res ipsa loquitur with some of Jomny’s tweets.

Sun: Sure. Yeah, I’m gonna go over here and DJ them. JZ asked me to pull up some my favorite tweets that I’ve done.

Zittrain: You want to embiggen it?

Sun: Yes! How do I…?

Zittrain: Ctrl-+ usu­al­ly does some­thing. Or Ctrl-Shift-+? There we go.

Sun: There we go. Embiggening. Okay. Do I need to read these out loud or can you all read them?

This was kind of in rela­tion­ship to the Joe Biden/Obama memes:

This is kind of like the spir­it of my entire writ­ing project:

Another one of my favorites:

Audience Member: That’s so fun­ny.

Sun: Thank you!

This one’s a bit of an expla­na­tion, but I tweet­ed this and I said omg.. Will O. Smith and Jada N. Smith” with Google search result images of Will Smith’s mid­dle name, Oliver, and Jada Pinkett Smith’s mid­dle name, Naomi, which refers to their kids Willow and Jaden, right. Willow Smith and Jaden Smith.

It went kin­da viral, 50,000 likes. But I doc­tored these search results. So, their mid­dle names aren’t actu­al­ly Oliver or Naomi, I think it’s like Christopher and Koren or some­thing. But this is kind of like I pre­ced­ed the fake news thing by tweet­ing this in late 2015. And so this was like a fun fake news piece as opposed to every oth­er fake news piece.

And I thought, giv­en the tech thing that we’re in right now:

So yeah, that’s a lit­tle intro on me. I’ll flip it over to the PowerPoint and… I just put some pages from the book in the back so we can kind of loop it as we go along and hope­ful­ly it’ll help us set the tone for this talk.

Zittrain: That’s won­der­ful. Thank you so much. And I can’t help but also by way of intro­duc­tion— This is a love­ly book, by the way. Available over here after the pre­sen­ta­tion. And there are few­er books than there are peo­ple, so… You know.

Sun: So run.

Zittrain: Lord of the Flies.

When he isn’t tweet­ing, Jonathan Sun is an archi­tect, design­er, engi­neer, artist, play­wright, and com­e­dy writer.” Which is a fair­ly long list of things.

Sun: Yes.

Zittrain: But tell us about, first, the title of the book.

Sun: Sure.

Zittrain: Authors choose their titles very care­ful­ly. They often have sec­ond thoughts about it. everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too:”—

Sun: Yes.

Zittrain: a book”

Sun: Yes.

Zittrain: I love how the sub­ti­tle is…“a book.”

Sun: Oh it is a book, yeah. Explain what’s going on?

Zittrain: Unless you think it speaks for itself.

Sun: I mean, I think this is one of the things— This title kin­da came about after I’d done the book. And it’s a line in the book and it’s one of those things where when you see the line in the book you’ll be like, That’s the title of the thing!” And it’s kind of the entire theme of both the book and my work in gen­er­al. I think I kind of have float­ed through the world feel­ing like an out­sider and feel­ing a bit like an alien, I guess. And along the way I’ve met so many oth­er peo­ple who have felt like that too, and I think this is a cel­e­bra­tion of that kind of diver­si­ty and of that kind of out­sider­dom.

Zittrain: And are aliens… I remem­ber my dad once told me that when he went to col­lege there were a bunch of fra­ter­ni­ties. And then there were peo­ple who did­n’t join the fra­ter­ni­ty who joined some­thing called the Nonfraternal Union.

Sun: Okay.

Zittrain: And I was like “…” Is that not…a fra­ter­ni­ty?

Sun: Yes.

Zittrain: And he’s like, No no! It was the Nonfraternal Union. And we had meet­ings and did activ­i­ties and—”

Sun: And mem­ber­ships.

Zittrain: Right. So are aliens a cohort, or is the whole point of being an alien that when every­one else is an alien… [crosstalk]

Sun: Yeah.

Zittrain: …we’re aliens from one anoth­er?

Sun: Yeah. I think I love that delight­ful para­dox. It’s kind of like the nice ver­sion of when every­one’s spe­cial no one’s spe­cial. And maybe this is like the pos­i­tive flip of that, when every­one’s an alien you’re an alien too. And I think it’s part of say­ing that being an out­sider is okay, and kind of a cel­e­bra­tion of that. And I think that we can kind of spend more time kind of cel­e­brat­ing every­one else’s dif­fer­ences and mak­ing that the high­light instead of kind of cel­e­brat­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties.

Zittrain: Yeah. Now, in some of the wonderful-to-read cov­er­age of you, pro­files in antic­i­pa­tion of the book, you’ve been described as sort of… It’s prob­a­bly the kind of thing like the anar­chist’s club had bet­ter not have a pres­i­dent. I assume Weird Twitter does not have a leader.

Sun: Sure.

Zittrain: But cer­tain­ly a denizen of Weird Twitter.

Sun: Mm hm. Yes.

Zittrain: If we were play­ing word asso­ci­a­tion, tell us about Weird Twitter. And demo­graph­i­cal­ly, how many peo­ple— I don’t know if this is like ask­ing if you’re a hip­ster, because… How many peo­ple would say, Weird Twitter. Yes, I iden­ti­fy?” Alright, so not that many.

Sun: Well, Weird Twitter was a thing I think around 2012, 2013, I’d say. Like this move­ment of loosely-connected com­e­dy peo­ple who were writ­ing with anony­mous accounts and just like, mess­ing up every­thing about Twitter and mak­ing weird aes­thet­ic mis­cues and mis­spellings and mess­ing with gram­mar and syn­tax, and real­ly just using Twitter as this text-based medi­um in a way that I’d nev­er seen com­e­dy used before. And so it was total­ly absur­dist, total­ly sur­re­al­ist. But also kind of remind­ed me of the Fluxus move­ment from the 60s, which was a group of poets who real­ly looked at the aes­thet­ic of the form of the type that showed up on the page and played with that, and were explor­ing the effects of what that would do.

Zittrain: So that’s a fas­ci­nat­ing expla­na­tion ground­ed in syn­tax. But I guess—if our medi­um is our mes­sage” there’s also— Is there a mes­sage hav­ing to do with what you were talk­ing about before about diver­si­ty or out­sider­ness or some­thing or…anybody can use weird syn­tax?

Sun: Well, I found that the under­ly­ing spir­it of that kind of move­ment was that— And there was a tweet that said, I don’t think we’re using Twitter for what it was intend­ed for.” And I think that was kind of the spir­it of the whole thing. It was this total­ly sub­ver­sive kind of rebel­lion against the plat­form itself. And I think that’s what I found so fas­ci­nat­ing, because at that time I think a lot of what Twitter was being thought of was things like, I’m eat­ing a sand­wich” or like, Go watch my movie,” or, Go vote for my par­ty” or what­ev­er. And then all these peo­ple came in with no desire at all to kind of use it the way that oth­er peo­ple were. And so in a sense every­one was try­ing to break Twitter by doing this.

Zittrain: And you speak about it kind of in the past tense. Is Weird Twitter no longer Weird Twitter or around because its aims were achieved? Twitter now is pur­pose­less? Or what caused the end of Weird Twitter as you would describe it?

Sun: I mean, I think so many online com­mu­ni­ties and online lit­tle groups, they have their moment and they kind of work for a while and then they nat­u­ral­ly fiz­zle or dis­band. Or peo­ple just start kind of— It starts being this small thing and it starts get­ting more and more dis­parate.

Zittrain: Woodstock can only be so many days before the mud takes over.

Sun: That’s right. And I always have to say with quote Weird Twitter” unquote (because that was not a label that any­body liked), it was a thing that was beau­ti­ful because it was small and no one knew about it. And at the time, hav­ing 200 fol­low­ers was a spe­cial thing. And even­tu­al­ly it just became more and more pop­u­lar, and I think more peo­ple were pay­ing atten­tion to it. And because of that there was this lifes­pan where you had like the gen­uine first kin­da wave—

Zittrain: Yes.

Sun: —peo­ple who were doing this. And then it got some atten­tion and oth­er peo­ple are com­ing in who were essen­tial­ly try­ing to mim­ic the voice and the aes­thet­ic of it with­out nec­es­sar­i­ly grasp­ing the spir­it of it. And so you had the sec­ond wave of peo­ple. And then those waves even­tu­al­ly kept going until the voice or the look of it was what peo­ple were going for.

Zittrain: There was some kind of busi­ness book like how to sell your prod­uct on Weird Twitter.”

Sun: Yeah! And that’s kind of like, that’s like the weird thing about the mon­e­ti­za­tion of Internet con­tent any­way, right, is that as soon as some­thing catch­es flame, oth­er peo­ple want to use it for their own pur­pos­es. Whether to grow a fol­low­ing or to get enough eyes on it to sell some­thing. And so it kind of became dis­band­ed.

Zittrain: Now, some of those tweets you showed as demon­stra­tive of your account had tens of thou­sands of retweets, and you’ve got like a quar­ter of a mil­lion fol­low­ers?

Sun: Uh, 400,000 now, yeah.

Zittrain: God…

Sun: Yeah.

Zittrain: …a lot hap­pens in a week.

Sun: Yeah, exact­ly.

Zittrain: And, so do you have a secret account, kind of like Jerry Seinfeld wear­ing a mask to do stand-up, where you’re try­ing things out?

Sun: It’s fun­ny because this, is sup­posed to be that. This was sup­posed to be like the secret place that no one was sup­posed to know about. And some­how now it’s what I’m known for.

Zittrain: Note he did not answer the ques­tion.

Sun: But I also do not have a secret sec­ondary account. I kin­da treat this as like my per­son­al place where I get to voice all this stuff. So I do see it as my per­son­al account and not a char­ac­ter thing.

Zittrain: Now, in the pub­lic eye, when peo­ple talk about Twitter these days or wring their hands over it— And there’s a lot of hand-wringing about what has Twitter become? What kind of over­all expe­ri­ence is it? Tons of neg­a­tiv­i­ty, cyn­i­cism, out­right hos­til­i­ty, misog­y­ny, you name it. You now have a high enough pro­file that you could have a tar­get on your back, metaphor­i­cal­ly, rhetor­i­cal­ly speak­ing. And yet I think it’s safe to say your rep­re­sen­ta­tion there and with­in in the book is nev­er, it seems, with cyn­i­cal dis­tance. Maybe with dis­tance, but with an earnest­ness that you would think would make trolls sali­vate. And I’m curi­ous what your expe­ri­ence is now, hav­ing the pro­file you do, tweet­ing with the form and con­tent that you do.

Sun: Right. Well, I think part of what I’m try­ing to do is—and maybe not explic­it­ly, but cre­ate like a pos­i­tive space online and prac­tice empa­thy and kind of cre­ate lit­tle moments of kind­ness and delight and joy. Especially giv­en the cyn­i­cal, poi­so­nous waste­land of the Internet as it is right now. I think hav­ing those lit­tle moments—

Zittrain: Let the record show he’s say­ing that with a smile. Which does­n’t mean he does­n’t believe it, it’s just…

Sun: Yes. It’s a chal­lenge to play with. But I think because of that it’s even more impor­tant to try to cre­ate those moments where peo­ple kind of see things and feel a lit­tle bit [inaudi­ble; crosstalk]

Zittrain: And do you have a sense of the recep­tion of that? I mean, I imag­ine your men­tions look like, what is it, RIP my men­tions.”

Sun: Yeah.

Zittrain: Are your men­tions per­ma­nent­ly rest­ing in peace? Or are you sift­ing through them…

Sun: Yeah…

Zittrain: And is it a Skinner box? Are you like…you know, some­thing gets a ton of stuff, you’re like alright, more of that.” And then oh, this did­n’t get good reac­tion, less of that.”

Sun: Yeah, I mean it’s real­ly hard to… I mean, part of the joy of Twitter’s hav­ing that instan­ta­neous response. It’s kind of like the clos­est you can get to mim­ic­k­ing being in front of peo­ple doing a stand-up set, right. Because you get the imme­di­ate reac­tion from peo­ple. But at the same time there’s a dan­ger of look­ing at those num­bers and turn­ing it into data and turn­ing it into—

Zittrain: It’s like dur­ing a debate when they turn the dials and Frank Lutz is like, That’s it, Trumps gonna win.”

Sun: Yeah, exact­ly. There’s a dan­ger of doing that and kind of turn­ing into a par­o­dy of your­self, I think. So part of it is, my men­tions are kind of…a mess. And you asked about the kind of harm­ful speech stuff a lit­tle bit.

Zittrain: Yes.

Sun: And I do have a tar­get on my back and I do have a very ded­i­cat­ed group of trolls and peo­ple who hate me.

Zittrain: I was like props to them for their devo­tion!”

Sun: Yeah, it’s like shout out to them. Shout out for stick­ing around for four years and con­tin­u­ing to do this.

Zittrain: Have you engaged with them? Because so much, too, of your work, almost every instance we see is a dia­logue of some kind. It’s not a pro­nounce­ment, it’s a dia­logue.

Sun: Yeah.

Zittrain: And so how much of your work when you’re on Twitter is post­ing the dia­logue and then on to the next, ver­sus engag­ing in dia­logue, whether with peo­ple who are either try­ing to pick [up] the ball and car­ry it fur­ther, or just react and say great,” or react as one of your devot­ed trolls?

Sun: Right. The book is kind of a cel­e­bra­tion of… Like, it’s fun because the main char­ac­ter of the alien is main­ly a lis­ten­er and main­ly more on the qui­et side and some­one who would rather kin­da learn about every­one else’s lives than project their own lives to every­one else. And I think it’s part of the chal­lenge for writ­ing the book was cre­at­ing a pro­tag­o­nist that the world, like the sto­ry is cen­tered around, who actu­al­ly does­n’t do a lot of the dri­ving of the sto­ry. Who would rather kin­da take the back seat and lis­ten. And I think that kind of reflects [crosstalk] my…

Zittrain: An everyalien.

Sun: Yes. Yeah yeah. And I think that kind of reflects my view of Twitter best prac­tices, in a way. I used to respond a lot to haters and get in fights and kind of pick fights or retweet them into my time­line so oth­er peo­ple would pick fights with them. But now I’m kind of more okay with just see­ing that stuff and kind of being like okay, I hear that but I’m not going to respond.

Zittrain: I can’t tell if this is a jour­ney where you’ll end up as Cory Booker, who has these won­der­ful, weird owns of love back at his haters.

Sun: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there’s so much… And this is some­thing like Susan [Benish?] is here. And we’ve kind of been talk­ing about harm­ful speech online and the role of humor in kind of being able to counter harm­ful speech online, pos­i­tive­ly or in a pro­duc­tive way. And that’s some­thing I’m real­ly inter­est­ed in find­ing the bal­ance of. Of how to do it in a way that kind of deesca­lates the con­ver­sa­tion instead of mak­ing it—

Zittrain: Yes. And humor has, I think, so acknowl­edged… I was think­ing of Mark Twain’s thing about a lie gets around the block faster than the truth while it’s still putting on its shoes kind of thing. But there’s maybe a corol­lary to that where humor can reach peo­ple in a way that just earnest dec­la­ra­tions of what you think is true, fired at them like a Gatling gun… But humor also if it’s to have that ele­ment of shift of sur­prise, of whiplash that is often what humor is, can be mis­in­ter­pret­ed, can be mis­un­der­stood. People might not under­stand that this was sar­cas­tic. Especially when you’ve got 140 char­ac­ters.

Sun: Yes.

Zittrain: Do you find your­self pulling back from some­thing that is humor but you’re already antic­i­pat­ing the eight ways 10% of the peo­ple see­ing it are going to find it hor­ri­bly offen­sive?

Sun: Right. I mean, I do spend a lot of time fig­ur­ing out what the right way to write a joke, a short, a short piece. And some­times I’ll spend like half an hour just fig­ur­ing out the word­ing or fig­ur­ing out the angle for these things. I think there is a huge dan­ger of— Like there’s a quote that I think it goes some­thing like satire does­n’t work if the peo­ple who are main­ly the fans of it believe it’s true,” right. Like are a lot of—

Zittrain: I’ve always won­dered about all the peo­ple that watch The Office

Sun: That’s right. Yeah.

Zittrain: And they’re like, Oh my god, those goof­balls,” when many of them work in offices—

Sun: Right, exact­ly.

Zittrain: —and might…be the goof­ball.

Sun: Exactly. Or peo­ple who think The Onion is like, a real news­pa­per.

Zittrain: Spoiler alert. Or The Colbert Report was great.

Sun: Absolutely. There was a big Republican fan­base for that. And I think gets kind of mag­ni­fied online. Because of how short the snip­pets, the tweets are. There’s this huge chance of it get­ting mis­in­ter­pret­ed. And I think part of what I’m try­ing not to do is I’m try­ing to stay away from the iron­ic side of Twitter. Like there is kind of this voice of irony. Which to me is kind of like being a jerk, then if peo­ple think you’re a jerk you’re like, Ha ha! Gotcha. I’m not actu­al­ly a jerk. I was just pre­tend­ing to be a jerk.”

Zittrain: Kinda like tweet­ing fake news.

Sun: Yeah, it’s kin­da like this weird—

Zittrain: [inaudi­ble]

Sun: Yeah, you’re right. So, that was in 2015 so I’ve stepped away from that.

Zittrain: Which was just me being a jerk.

Sun: Yes, exact­ly. But there is—

Zittrain: You don’t have to agree that quick­ly.

Sun: But there is some­thing about the online dis­course that those mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions like, when we’re in per­son we can just agree and be like, alright that’s great. And we agree and move on. And we get each oth­er. But then online there’s so many ways that these things can get mis­in­ter­pret­ed or you pass by each oth­er. And so on some­times those deep lev­els of satire or irony I think are more coun­ter­pro­duc­tive than pro­duc­tive.

Zittrain: Now, it’s trite to call some of these amaz­ing tweets gems. But they have the a gem-like qual­i­ty maybe of… I’m curi­ous how long they spend being pol­ished and sort of buffed and pre­pared. You men­tion it might take half an hour to kind of get it right. But at the begin­ning of the half hour is maybe when you had the idea, or you might be work­ing on some­thing for like a week?

Sun: It real­ly depends. Sometimes it just comes out fully-formed, like the moon one. The good­night moon one, it just came out just fully-formed and I just tweet­ed it. And I remem­ber it was exact­ly 140 char­ac­ters and I’m like, This is a sign.” This is fine. I’m just going to put it out there.

But treat it like any oth­er writ­ing project. Like I don’t treat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly from play­writ­ing or sketch com­e­dy or writ­ing essays or any­thing. I kind of will…I have this notes thing on my phone that I just any time I think of some­thing I just jot it down real quick and then I can refer to it lat­er and just keep going back and fig­ur­ing out if there’s an angle or some­thing that I want to say with it. And there is this process of I guess writ­ing the ideas down and then fig­ur­ing out which of these is worth kind of explor­ing more and then kind of pol­ish­ing it. So I think I real­ly want to try to boost the work that peo­ple do on social media as a gen­uine form of cre­ative out­put.

Zittrain: And it seems like there may be no top­ic explic­it­ly off lim­its for you to engage with. The book as I look it over can some­times flip from the most… From whim­sy, maybe even twee, sud­den­ly into exis­ten­tial­ism. Like on the next page our alien encoun­ters a skele­ton. It’s dead. It’s like oh, this is a baby that’s real­ly all grown up.” And them some­body else is like, Don’t touch it.” Next. page.

Sun: Yes. Yes.

Zittrain: And I’m won­der­ing— It’s like…I don’t know, I can revis­it. Should I give this to my 7 year-old nephew, or?

Sun: Right. Yeah.

Zittrain: And you did a tweet in the wake of one of the recent mass shoot­ings, I think, that said some­thing like the year 2030,” then it was Son: dad what were things like when youwere a baby? And dad says, Believe it or, son, they weren’t every day.”

Sun: Yeah. That’s right.

Zittrain: And that said… So I don’t know, I’d be inter­est­ed to hear a lit­tle bit about, is there any top­ic off lim­its for this modal­i­ty for you?

Sun: I think it’s just find­ing ways to make it um… That’s a real­ly good ques­tion. I think part of it for me is find­ing ways to take a spe­cif­ic thing and kind of gen­er­al­ize it a lit­tle bit and make it a piece that not only applies at the moment but applies like five years lat­er, ten years lat­er, and some­thing that you can go back to and both see it as a snap­shot of what was hap­pen­ing at the time, and then also still rel­e­vant or applic­a­ble lat­er on.

I don’t think that by prin­ci­ple there’s any­thing that I want to shy away from, but I do think there are a lot of top­ics that I rec­og­nize as like a straight, cishet male that I’m not in the right posi­tion to be the one mak­ing these state­ments. And so I like to use Twitter as also a plat­form to expand oth­er voic­es and to kind of be the micro­phone, and kind of give a plat­form to oth­er peo­ple who I think have a bet­ter per­spec­tive and a bet­ter, clear­er way to say some of the things—

Zittrain: And does that mean a healthy dose of like, retweet­ing with­out com­ment kind of stuff?

Sun: Absolutely, yeah. And find­ing peo­ple whose per­spec­tives I real­ly appre­ci­ate, and kind of sig­nal post­ing, and kind of find­ing ways to to do that pro­duc­tive­ly.

Zittrain: And are there peo­ple who did that for you back in the day?

Sun: I think so, yeah. I think that’s kind of how social media works, is like you kind of make friends and you kind of fig­ure out who… You find like kin­dred spir­its, in a way. And I think the cool thing about Twitter is that even though it’s through text, it’s short pieces, often­times you don’t even know what the per­son looks like that you’re kind of inter­fac­ing with. But I think maybe because of that, you get a truer sense of who they are, in a very strange way. Like I’ve had so many meet­ings with peo­ple that I’ve known through Twitter who had become like my very close friends. Yeah, and there are so many cas­es where I feel like the first time I meet them in per­son, if I’ve fol­lowed them for a while I already know who they are and I’ve skipped like the first five times hang­ing out with them. I’m on till it’s like already being their friend and we kind of it’s like we’re pick­ing up a con­ver­sa­tion instead of start­ing one.

Zittrain: Ten years ago the then-Berkman Center host­ed Wikimania 2006 here on cam­pus. And it was just amaz­ing to see all of the meet­ings of Wikipedians that had only known each oth­er on the— Oh so you’re HotPants15! It’s so great to meet you.” And it was like the first meet­ing of the Arbcom in per­son, the Arbitration Committee. And it’s like you know, you were expect­ing you know…Ruth Bader Ginsburg to turn up and oth­er peo­ple in robes. And it was just like oh… But they still emanat­ed pow­er, let me be clear.

You had a great McSweeney’s piece. It was a dia­logue with a stand-in maybe for you or some­body maybe gen­tly try­ing to push Twitter to increase the char­ac­ter size, and Twitter explain­ing again and again why it would nev­er do such a thing. If you had root access to Twitter what’s the one change, if any, you might see your­self want­i­ng to make to it?

Sun: I think the biggest issue Twitter has right now is issues of harass­ment and abuse, still. It’s been the prob­lem with the plat­form I think since the begin­ning?

Zittrain: Yes.

Sun: And I think it’s like— I under­stand it’s a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. But amongst every­one, like all my friends on Twitter and I guess amongst every­one I kind of inter­act with, the com­mon thread is if we can kind of curb the amount of neg­a­tive, harm­ful speech get­ting tar­get­ed towards us, we’re all going to want to use it more. And I think a lot of the pub­lic per­cep­tion now is peo­ple are kind of resis­tant to join­ing Twitter and to get­ting on it because they’re afraid of tweet­ing some­thing wrong and get­ting a lot of tar­get­ed stuff—

Zittrain: And do you have an instinct— Is it loose­ly… Come on peo­ple. Just make some decent rules or stan­dards and then invest what it takes to enforce it. We all kind of know it when we see it.” Or is it, No, we have to inno­vate entire­ly new design fea­tures or some­thing to…”

Sun: Yeah, I mean there are some very— I think there are basic things like find­ing the Neo-Nazi groups and ban­ning their accounts or some­thing. Which there was a piece that I saw recent­ly where I think Twitter banned Neo-Nazi— Had delet­ed Neo-Nazi accounts that orig­i­nat­ed from Germany because that was German law, but refused to do it for accounts from oth­er coun­tries. Which means that that there is a capa­bil­i­ty of find­ing and tar­get­ing those accounts but kind of like an unwill­ing­ness to do it unless it’s like doc­u­ment­ed and ille­gal. So I think there are ele­ments of that as well.

Zittrain: Certainly much more to explore there, but why don’t we open it up. Anybody want to ask a ques­tion or make an inter­jec­tion or begin a dia­logue for which we need to get a micro­phone to you, if that’s the case? Sarah, yeah. Welcome back from vaca­tion.


Sarah Newman: Thank you. It’s nice to see—

Sun: Feel free to say who you are.

Newman: I’m Sarah Newman. I’m a cre­ative researcher at metaLab and a fel­low at the Berkman Klein Center. My ques­tion is about the draw­ings. And if you could talk about your style of draw­ing, what inspired it, how you feel it works with the text and also about sort of audi­ence. Whether you feel like it changes the audi­ence, expands it, lim­its it. Or whether there’s dif­fer­ent audi­ences for… Sort of some peo­ple are more drawn to the draw­ings and some are more drawn to the text.

Sun: Yeah, total­ly. That’s a great. ques­tion. I’d also been work­ing in visu­al arts for a long time, and this was kind of like a the­sis on… Well this is all basi­cal­ly a trib­ute to the types of books I read as a kid. And there’s a bit of like Bill Watterson, Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak and all the kind of delightful—and a lit­tle bit dark—and a lit­tle bit thought­ful writer-illustrator type peo­ple. And that’s kind of the spir­it I want­ed to get across with the illus­tra­tions. I was very inter­est­ed also in the par­al­lel to Twitter and cre­at­ing a metaphor to the expe­ri­ence of being on Twitter through the book, which is very loose, but I was inter­est­ed in cre­at­ing draw­ings that were very icono­graph­ic and reduced to like this min­i­mal­ism and sim­plic­i­ty that allowed you to kind of see them as icons or avatars and stand-ins for actu­al peo­ple. And so that was the dig­i­tal design side that I was think­ing of as well.

And I think for the audi­ence, I’d hope that it kind of appeals to any­one who would pick it up and just see it and be like, This is a strange, kin­da cute thing and maybe either I’ll like it or my kid­s’ll like it.”

Zittrain: And again, it has the reas­sur­ance that it is in fact a book.

Sun: It is in fact a book, yes! And I was very excit­ed that my edi­tor let me put a book” on there, because he was like, Everyone’s going to know it’s a book.” But I thought that was a cute lit­tle— It was also a cute thing to say, like you might know me from the my work on Twitter, but this is—

Zittrain: It’s a dif­fer­ent form.

Sun: —very adamant­ly a dif­fer­ent form and like a launch­ing point into a dif­fer­ent kind of medi­um.

Sun: Other ques­tions?

Audience 2: I had a ques­tion about your spelling, and if there’s any pat­tern about it or if you kind of are just a real­ly bad typer or if you kind of type out what you actu­al­ly want and then go back and change each let­ter. And I notice on your tweets you do the same spelling errors, so I was kind of won­der­ing about that.

Zittrain: Yeah, do you have an autoincor­rect tool?

Sun: I wish I did. That’s a great ques­tion. The fun thing about the typos again that mess­ing up of the aes­thet­ic indi­vid­ual was… I think peo­ple attribute it to me now because I think I’m the only one who kept doing it, maybe the only one fool­ish enough to keep doing it? But I think around the Weird Twitter” zeit­geisty thing, every­one was kind of play­ing with form and play­ing with mess­ing up typos, or gram­mar and syn­tax and stuff. And there was this spir­it of just break­ing the English lan­guage. And so I kind of found my own way to do it.

And my inspi­ra­tion was kind of like the fat thumbs kind of thing, where most of the typos I make are not pho­net­ic but keyboard-based, like adja­cen­cies. So like aliebn,” the B and the N let­ters are next to each oth­er on the key­board.

Zittrain: So you could do a Dvorak ver­sion of your mis­spellings.

Sun: That’s right, yeah.

Zittrain: Somebody should write the tool.

Sun: Yeah.

Zittrain: If this, then that.

Sun: Yeah, that’s right. And a lot of them are based on the key­board adja­cen­cies. There’s like B/Ns and then replac­ing Ns with Ms a lot. And things that… Eventually I actu­al­ly cre­at­ed a style guide for my copy edi­tor for the book. Because when they—

Zittrain: Did your copy edi­tor get dan­ger pay?

Sun: Seriously. When I met about doing the book with HarperCollins, they were like, Our copy edi­tor’s going to want to kill you.” And so to make life a lit­tle bit eas­i­er I did make a style guide that was like, Okay, if you see this, that’s an inten­tion­al one. But if you see a typo that isn’t on this list that’s prob­a­bly a real typo.” So they had to cross-reference my actu­al style guide. Yeah. So there is a con­sis­ten­cy to it and some­thing that I tried to cre­ate.

Zittrain: I love that you can be so punc­til­ious about typos.

Sun: Yeah, no. I love it.

Zittrain: But only the right kind.

Sun: Yes.

Zittrain: But it’s also inter­est­ing because I was think­ing that in a way it was meant to empha­size the alien as new and dif­fer­ent and still learn­ing and all that, the way some­body who has any lan­guage as his or her sec­ond one could be. But this is not that. This is just…something dif­fer­ent.

Sun: Yeah, and it’s a lit­tle bit of both because I think like… I mean, grow­ing up as some­one who want­ed to be in com­e­dy but is an Asian male, I was very aware of how my iden­ti­ty kind of became the butt of jokes a lot of the time. And a lot of the time it was based on a mis­un­der­stand­ing of lan­guage, and I nev­er want­ed it— I think because of that expe­ri­ence I nev­er want­ed my humor to sort of be exclu­sive and laugh­ing at some­one for not know­ing some­thing. Instead I real­ly tried to make this some­thing that was sort of an inclu­sive thing. And part of the learn­ing a new lan­guage aspect of that, which I [did] want it to keep in this, was real­ly cre­at­ing a new type of gram­mat­i­cal error. Because I did­n’t want to fall back on English as a sec­ond language-type humor. Or immi­grants com­ing to America and hav­ing to learn English-type humor. I real­ly focused on cre­at­ing a voice that was dif­fer­ent and unique from that, and hope­ful­ly sep­a­rate from that type of—

Zittrain: Literally alien—

Sun: Yeah.

Zittrain: —rather than the ter­ri­ble deploy­ment of the word for peo­ple not from here.”

Sun: Exactly, yeah.

Zittrain: Susan.

Audience 3: You play this irre­sistible, adorable, cute, bewil­dered creature…alien, on Twitter. You also some­times at least seem to be very much play­ing your­self and reveal­ing some quite inti­mate details of your own self and your emo­tions. And from what I’ve observed, your fol­low­ers assume that that’s real. That that’s real” in quotes. That it’s you. And seem to tremen­dous­ly appre­ci­ate that you’re for exam­ple will­ing to say I feel sad.” Could you talk a lit­tle bit about that as a part of this phe­nom­e­non. And does it have some­thing to do with why the trolls may sali­vate but not go after you, to pick up Jonathan’s ques­tion?

Sun: Sure. Yeah. Well, I think part of the thing that I stum­bled into with the account is that I found actu­al­ly hav­ing a bit of an avatar and a bit of an iden­ti­ty dis­tance, or craft­ing a new iden­ti­ty, has actu­al­ly allowed me para­dox­i­cal­ly to be more hon­est and to be more myself. I think there’s… I feel like if my face were lit­er­al­ly attached to this, and my full, properly-spelled name were attached to this, I would­n’t be able to to be as hon­est and to divulge as much infor­ma­tion as I do with this account. And I’m not real­ly sure what that phe­nom­e­non is, but I’m real­ly appre­cia­tive of that.

I also think there is this bounce between char­ac­ter and per­son­al that I’ve kind of been real­ly care­ful about find­ing that bal­ance. Because I know that there’s sort of a… There’s sort of a, I guess skep­ti­cism to accounts that are char­ac­ter accounts, or accounts that specif­i­cal­ly try to be one thing. Especially online now, because you see so many peo­ple try­ing to use that as a way to mon­e­tize, or… The sort of insin­cere use of the Internet to cre­ate con­tent for oth­er pur­pos­es.

And so I like to set up the char­ac­ter thing and then break it by just inter­ject­ing my own voice into it and cre­at­ing that bal­ance—

Zittrain: And is it demar­cat­ed when you do that? It’s pret­ty clear it’s you?

Sun: Sometimes. Sometimes I will drop the typos and tweet as me. And now I’m in a weird place now, try­ing to pro­mote the book and also doing it through this account. Because now I have to write the jokes and write the con­tent, but also be like, Hey, I’m at the Berkman Klein Center.” And it’s a dif­fi­cult thing to bal­ance. But I also trust peo­ple online to be smart enough to know when it’s me tweet­ing and when it’s me tweet­ing as this cre­ative project. And I don’t think I need to cre­ate like, Jonathan Sun, author” account and Jomny Sun, char­ac­ter” char­ac­ter account.

Zittrain: Yes. Over here. We’ll meet up over here. [indi­cat­ing next ques­tion] I’m also curi­ous, just word or sen­tence asso­ci­a­tion. Brands online. Do you engage with brands? Do you poke fun at brands? Do you rue their arrival?

Sun: The most suc­cess­ful brand online I think at the moment is the Merriam-Webster dic­tio­nary Twitter account. Which is so…it’s just at the right place at the right time because it’s doing essen­tial­ly the role of a dic­tio­nary in a social media land­scape. It actu­al­ly is report­ing on which words are looked up now, and the accu­rate def­i­n­i­tion of words con­sid­er­ing that the peo­ple in pow­er right now are mis­us­ing lan­guage so bad­ly. So I think that’s a very pro­duc­tive brand, in a sense, because it’s using the iden­ti­ty of it to actu­al­ly do some­thing.

Fun brands, I guess like— I used to inter­act with the SpaghettiOs account. Just because I thought it was hilar­i­ous. And this was when the SpaghettiOs account had 1,000 fol­low­ers and I was kin­da just like talk­ing to it.

Zittrain: Were you talk­ing to it as a credulous…like, was it think­ing that you were just anoth­er con­sumer or were you…

Sun: Oh, I think it was like yeah— I was kind of like well, I love SpaghettiOs, will you send me SpaghettiOs, and I had this lit­tle thing. I actu­al­ly got two cans of SpaghettiOs, so.

But the fun­ny thing with those accounts is like, that social media per­son on that account left at some point. And you real­ize it because—

Zittrain: It became less saucy.

Sun: It became less—yeah, exact­ly.

Zittrain: That was my alter ego speak­ing.

Sun: But you you can tell when that hap­pens and I think that’s part of the skep­ti­cism with brands, too, is because you know that it’s not from a per­son­al place. You know that it’s from this com­pa­ny pay­ing this per­son to do this. And so to close that SpaghettiOs sto­ry, a year lat­er I tweet­ed back say­ing, Hello, old friend,” and they just said like, Hi! If you have a prob­lem with SpaghettiOs please con­tact me.” And I was like, Noooo!”

Zittrain: It’s like the skele­ton just rean­i­mat­ed and it was undead rather than alive.

Sun: Exactly, yeah.

Zittrain: Sasha.

Audience 4: Hi. So you talked a lit­tle bit about the tweet around the mass shoot­ing. And I’m won­der­ing how do you make the kinds of deter­mi­na­tions around— We have a lot of those kind of moments these days. There’s a lot of polit­i­cal moments you could engage with. My ques­tion is kind of about how do you deter­mine when and how to use this char­ac­ter to engage with the explic­it­ly polit­i­cal. It does­n’t seem like it hap­pens a lot, so it’s infre­quent and occa­sion­al. And have you been tempt­ed, giv­en the recent turn of events, to do more of that type of thing? I’m espe­cial­ly think­ing about the Supreme Court’s hear­ing of the…the alien ban.

Sun: Yeah. I think it’s such a bal­ance because I nev­er want to seem to be using the plat­form and the account and the voice to sort of pan­der in a way to cur­rent events and cur­rent issues. So I nev­er want to pan­der to that or treat it as a talk­ing point that I could just use to put some­thing out there. And so I’ve late­ly become a lot more con­scious of that, and instead what I’ve been try­ing to do is find oth­er voic­es and find oth­er per­spec­tives that I think have a more insight­ful take on it and try­ing to boost those voic­es instead. I think I have a respon­si­bil­i­ty not only to speak some­times but also just to step back and let oth­ers speak, and if I can help those voic­es get put out there then I think that’s a great way to go about it.

Audience 5: Hi, I’m Justin Emmerich[?]. I don’t if I’m maybe the per­son that’s fur­ther away— I’m from Ohio. I just hap­pened to be in Boston. I fol­low you on Twitter. I feel like we know each oth­er. Well, I know you.

Zittrain: And you’re well-labeled with an Ohio State shirt.

Audience 5: I need to get retweets by you so I have 500,000 fol­low­ers or what­ev­er. I just— A cou­ple things. I’m a teacher, and I just want­ed to per­son­al­ly thank you for a few things. First of all thank you for giv­ing my stu­dents that look at them­selves as out­siders or fel­low aliens an avenue, a friend, online. I have mul­ti­ple stu­dents that fol­low you and they are not the kids that talk out or any­thing but I’ll see them retweet you and that’s pret­ty impres­sive.

Second of all, some of your tweets have been excel­lent just in my class­room to dis­cuss. The tweet about from the stars… The astro­naut and going back to earth or going to the stars. And just that con­ver­sa­tion. There was anoth­er one about making…it was along the lines of doing things for oth­ers and then that makes you stop doing things for your­self. Just the depth­ness we’ve had from 140 char­ac­ters is pret­ty impres­sive.

My ques­tion, though, is about your book. How do you see this being used, maybe by mid­dle school or high school teach­ers? Do you see that?

Sun: Oh, man. I have not actu­al­ly thought about that. Uh, let’s see.

Zittrain: And if he were to pre­pare a deriv­a­tive work called a teacher’s guide, would you sue?

Sun: I would absolute­ly not sue. I think part of the aca­d­e­m­ic side of this was again cre­at­ing a metaphor— Like, I think the mis­sion for this was kind of take that writer/author/illustrator-type book and update it for an audi­ence that kind of is primed for social media now. For an atten­tion span or for— I mean, atten­tion span” is such a shit­ty word. So not an atten­tion span, for just like, primed for that sort of nar­ra­tive form, I guess. And so this real­ly reads as both a con­cise nar­ra­tive piece that has a begin­ning, mid­dle, end, but also jumps around char­ac­ters a lot and jumps on dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tives, and things inter­sect and weave in and out. Much in the same way that I’ve observed the Twitter time­line or the social media time­line work­ing. And so part of the the­o­ret­i­cal mis­sion of this book was to take that type of online nar­ra­tive and put it into I guess a more tra­di­tion­al form. So I don’t know if that helps.

But yeah, and then the oth­er thing is all the char­ac­ters sort of rep­re­sent a dif­fer­ent on kind of idea or anx­i­ety or per­son­al inter­nal strug­gle of mine. And so I feel like I’ve split myself into like eight, ten, fif­teen dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters and kind of am work­ing through them by work­ing on the book. And so I hope maybe there’s a char­ac­ter guide or some­thing as well.

Zittrain: And just as a quick follow-up on that, what’s your view on remix, as it were? Especially… I mean, this is prob­a­bly the wrong exam­ple to sud­den­ly tilt every­thing towards, Pepe the frog has been one of the most remixed, trans­form, char­ac­ters in his­to­ry. How do you feel about if kids or oth­ers were to take up your own char­ac­ters, add one or two, deploy then in their own direc­tions?

Sun: Right. It’s such an inter­est­ing thing, because the Internet has thrived so much on remix cul­ture, right. And I don’t know what the IP or like the copy­right side of things are, or just the own­er­ship side of things. I would love for this book to kind of be tak­en and used how­ev­er the Internet wants it to…to a degree. [Zittrain laughs] But I’ve been telling every­one who wants to use it as a col­or­ing book to use it as a col­or­ing book. It’s their book when they have it. It’s no longer mine when it’s kind of in your hands.

Zittrain: But like, he could assign his stu­dents if they want­ed to write some con­tin­u­ing adven­tures.

Sun: Yeah—

Zittrain: You could even see doing so tem­plates…

Sun: Yeah, absolute­ly.

Zittrain: What about like a green screen chal­lenge?

Sun: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, that’s some­thing that um…I think that’s inevitable any­way, and for me I spent so much of my high school writ­ing fan­fic­tion and tak­ing the char­ac­ters that already exist and imag­in­ing them in new sit­u­a­tions.

Zittrain: Who were your favorites?

Sun: I wrote an Indiana Jones com­ic. And this graph­ic nov­el that I think it was about…what was it about? It was about the mon­key king, and it was kind of based on an exist­ing script that got the nod for like the fourth Indiana Jones?

Zittrain: Do you real­ize your agent is like, Come on. [inaudi­ble]”

Sun: Yeah, but so many of… I think the ways young writ­ers learn to write and to cre­ate work is by look­ing at exist­ing things and tak­ing the pieces that they love and try­ing to imag­ine those in new sit­u­a­tions. So there’s no way I would ever want to deny that as well. Because that’s how I learned how to do all this stuff. I grew up draw­ing Calvin and Hobbes over and over again until I fig­ured out how to draw and how to make nar­ra­tive in visu­al ways, just by copy­ing my favorite art and kind of work­ing and play­ing with that.

Audience 6: So, I first found your Twitter account when I was a grad­u­ate stu­dent liv­ing abroad, so it was a real­ly kind of cool thing to see. But sec­ond­ly my ques­tion is how do you find that your cre­ative process dif­fers between plat­forms, where you do stand-up and you do Twitter and you do your book and archi­tec­ture. Like, is it the same or are there dis­tinct process that you go through?

Sun: I think it starts out the same. I think it starts out with like a spark of an idea and then it’s about— For me it’s about fig­ur­ing out where that is sup­posed to be slot­ted in or which medi­ums I want to play in. I think the way my brain works is that if there’s some­thing I’m a fan of, I real­ly just want to do some­thing in that style or in that genre or in that plat­form. And so for me it’s kind of what the idea is, and where I think it should go and what I want to play with at the moment. So whether that’s tak­ing this one-liner thing and try­ing to turn it into a play, or think­ing about a space and say­ing oh, this would be real­ly cool if there was like a thing here” and then work­ing to cre­ate an instal­la­tion that’s site-specific for that place.

But it all comes from the idea first and see­ing— For me it’s also what the chal­lenge is, right. Maybe not nec­es­sar­i­ly tak­ing it the most sim­plest way. Like for the book, this was orig­i­nal­ly sup­posed to be a web com­ic. And I just thought maybe I’d just illus­trate my tweets and put it out like three times a week and just make it a thing. But then I was like but, this would also be way more con­fus­ing and headache-inducing if I tried to make it a book. So I’m going to do that instead.

But I think that chal­lenge is part of the fun, right. Like I think at the heart of it cre­ativ­i­ty is just puzzle-solving. And so that’s how I approach, I think, every­thing that I do.

Zittrain: Isaiah Berlin had this dis­tinc­tion between a fox and a hedge­hog. For aca­d­e­mics, and among oth­er things I don’t mean to accuse you, but you are an aca­d­e­m­ic pur­su­ing a doc­tor­al degree.

Sun: Correct.

Zittrain: And the fox is some­body who is into a lot of things, and just any new thing might inter­est the fox.

Sun: Sure.

Zittrain: Write some­thing here, build some­thing there, car­toon some­thing there. And I think Berlin was on Team Fox. And a hedge­hog is like, I’m gonna get real­ly good at this one thing.” Like, sound. Or what­ev­er it is, you get real­ly good as a hedge­hog. And a lot of these fields that you have inter­est and tal­ent in…design, engi­neer­ing, writ­ing, they do require lay­ers of stuff. And here you are pur­su­ing a doc­tor­al degree, which is the ulti­mate like year after year of hedge­hog­ging. So I just…this is a lit­tle bit Barbara Walters, what’s next?

Sun: Yeah!

Zittrain: What’s next for Jonathan Sun? Is it con­tin­u­ing to do spread spec­trum, or might it be like, I’ll see y’all in five years after I build a new air­port for Belgium.”

Sun: Sure, yeah. I actu­al­ly don’t know. I think my role as an aca­d­e­m­ic has been an inter­est­ing one because par­tial­ly what inspired this work is the fact that I was here and feel­ing very lost and hav­ing a lot of impos­tor syn­drome. And I thought well, the thing that I actu­al­ly have a grasp on that that can ground me is by work­ing on some­thing cre­ative. And some­thing that I feel like I have con­trol over, because some­times I think acad­e­mia, maybe just for me in a place like this sur­round­ed by genius­es and feel­ing total­ly over­whelmed, is…there’s this, there’s a lot of pres­sure involved with that.

Zittrain: [inaudi­ble] out on a limb.

Sun: Right, yeah! But I think I do want to con­tin­ue work­ing on a PhD, but I want to find cre­ative ways to do that and maybe think a bit out­side of the box and fig­ure out how to make that hap­pen.

Zittrain: Got it. One more ques­tion from this zone. I real­ize I’ve been posi­tioned diag­o­nal­ly. Wherever the mic finds itself.

Audience 7: Hi. So you’ve been talk­ing a lot about sort of dif­fer­ent iden­ti­ties and sep­a­ra­tion between iden­ti­ties. And and also about dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines. And when I read through this, you’re an archi­tect, design­er, engi­neer, artist play­wright, com­e­dy writer, and also you refer to your­self as an author and illus­tra­tor, which sort of com­bines two sep­a­rate things. Do you see all of these as sep­a­rate iden­ti­ties or lives, or are they all sort of expres­sions of you? Are there over­laps between them or are they sep­a­rate enti­ties?

Sun: Oh, I think they’re like total…I think they’re all part of the same thing. Like I don’t real­ly see them as sep­a­rate things at all. Just because I think I just want to make…things, for like my entire life. And so for me it’s just about where the fun is in mak­ing the thing.

Zittrain: I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out what food you would pre­pare if you were a chef.

Sun: [laughs] I’m real­ly good at Italian.

Zittrain: [inaudi­ble] is that cin­na­mon in the steak? You’re like, It’s a typo.”

Sun: Right! It’s an inten­tion­al one. The recipe called for car­damom. Yeah. I don’t know. I do think it’s… I con­sid­er it all the same. And I’ll have you over for din­ner one night. And we’ll see.

Zittrain: Very good. Saul Tannenbaum, maybe, for our last ques­tion. Make it a good one. No pres­sure.

Saul Tannenbaum I actually…it’s a quick follow-up to the typo ques­tion. Is the B in aliebn” meant to be silent, or is it ali-eh-bin?”

Sun: The fun­ny thing is I’ve always thought of the typos as a pure­ly text-based medi­um and it’s meant to be read and not spo­ken. I think of Twitter as this thing that the pow­er of it is that the read­er is kind of fill­ing in the voice in their head and it’s not meant to be per­formed, right. And so obvi­ous­ly I have this prob­lem where I’m pro­mot­ing a book with a typo in it and I don’t know what to do with it. And I’m still try­ing to fig­ure it out. I’d rather just hold it up and let every­one read it and say, Memorize this book. This is what it’s called.” But I’ve call­ing it alien” just because I think part of it is like, these are key­board typos, and so they’re still intend­ed to be spo­ken as words.

Zittrain: There’s just a mas­sive sic” at the end of the book.

Sun: Yeah! They’ve had to do that a lot in the press releas­es and stuff.

Zittrain: We actu­al­ly have time for one more bonus ques­tion unless there’s some­thing more you want to to ask every­body or say.

Sun: No no no. Let’s do one more.

Zittrain: Back here.

Audience 9: Well, this is much more per­son­al. Looking at what you do and the range of sev­er­al things that catch­es your inter­est, what’s your me time like? You know, what do you do? What’s your ide­al time 24-hour sce­nario? What do you do? How do you pri­or­i­tize things? Do you take a par­tic­u­lar thing a day or you just move from one thing to the oth­er with­in the span of 24 hours?

Sun: Oh, man. I’m very bad at any struc­ture and any sched­ule. And I think part of it is I think I have a strange ten­den­cy to fill up free time. Like I feel like if I have free time I’m wast­ing it, in a way. And so it’s maybe an unhealthy habit, but I do tend to kind of see that and be like oh, I need to find a way to fill this.” And then what­ev­er kind of inter­est­ing way I can do to be pro­duc­tive is the thing I’ll fol­low and then I’ll look up at the clock and it’s four in the morn­ing. And I’ll be like oh, this was a bad idea” again, to do this. So I have very lit­tle struc­ture and I’m try­ing to work on it.

Zittrain: And is it right to describe you as an intro­vert?

Sun: Yeah, absolute­ly. Yeah.

Zittrain: It’s just the way you recharge is to do some­thing, but alone.

Sun: Actually, yeah. I real­ly like mak­ing and I think the thing that dri­ves me is just kind of the fact that I can look at some­thing the day after and be like oh, there was noth­ing here before, and now there’s a thing here.” And all that hap­pened was I sat down and I willed it into exis­tence and isn’t that cool? And now can’t I share it with every­body and be like, You can do this too and isn’t that cool?”

Zittrain: A mere hour ago there was a big pile of bur­ri­tos. There are few­er. And yet we are enriched. And we have [inaudi­ble] for the use of this hour. And Jonathan thank you so much for com­ing out and for giv­ing us so much to fol­low in your exem­plary work. Thank you.

Sun: Great. Thank you, Jonathan.

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