Twitter. I’ve been tossing around ideas in my head about this service for verbosity-challenged conversationalists for at least a month now. At first, I was skeptical. A few weeks later, Twitter grew on me a bit, but it still felt dirty. Recently, I’ve benefitted.
Last week, I Greyhounded myself down to American University in Washington DC to attend Beyond Broadcast 2008. The amiable conference organizers offered me a scholarship in exchange for a little guide to Twitter, because evidently those guys and gals over in broadcast media don’t understand simple methods of sociability online. Either way, to save $50, I had to force myself to like Twitter. But I do like Twitter, don’t I? I mean, I’m not a Twitter obsessor; I follow less than twenty users. What’s so appealing about Twitter?
First off, kudos to the design team. You’ll pulled off a Threadless/Victorian mashup that I truly find appealing.
But really, the element that makes Twitter what it is: simplicity. One hundred forty characters may not be a lot, but such a limit persuades the composer to ruminate on the few phrases he can put together to create a coherent thought.
Then there’s the element that makes Twitter useful: the fact that it produces coherent thoughts. Keep in mind I did not write relevant or sensible. I agree that some messages are completely inane. But good things come out of Twitter. I’d say that the most useful, albeit less frequently utilized, potential of Twitter is to become an idea aggregate, for people to compose quickly-scribbled, Post-It note sized messages that would be more utilitarian published for the world to see than ported around inside someone’s head. Unfortunately, it seems that other Twitter inhabitants would rather employ the service as a replacement for a Facebook status feed, just to keep on top of what everyone’s doing. Of course, there’s also the in-the-moment practicality of Twitter, especially if you have it hooked up to your mobile phone, in situations such as reporting breaking news (eg. the earthquakes in China or if you get thrown in the slammer).
A positive: the Twitter community, I’ve noticed, is fairly peaceful. Well, disregard when Twitter goes down for lengthy eras of time. But in terms of argument or plain old insipid flame wars, I haven’t seen or read about it. There’s no competition on Twitter. And that’s good. (Unlike
OK, so Twitter’s not bad. But, honestly, Twitter has a cult following and it’s turned into something akin to a fraternity considering its most loyal users. A few weeks ago, I surmised what might have caused Twitter’s popularity to skyrocket so quickly and not peter out. At first, I simply blamed the adults and called Twitter the solution to the next generation middle-aged crisis. Now, I feel like being a bit nicer. So let’s pull it back to ROFLCon…
At ROFLCon, Friday’s opening keynote, a talk by David Weinberger, and Saturday’s opening keynote, by Alice Marwick, dealt with Internet fame, which I guess became the official theme of ROFLCon 1. Instead of dissecting Internet celebrities online, think about the general concept of fame, popularity, fashion in the online space. Dave spoke about the current evolution from a broadcast system (mediated, where The Man chooses what we watch and eventually what we find popular) to a network system (free-reign, where We link each other to videos and images, and choose what becomes famous). In a broadcast domain, alienation results. Via network, the focus is intimacy. And so Twitter’s success, I believe, is based in the familiar. As I alluded to previously, I find more statements about breakfast and bodily functions than theories and thesis. But modernism is about the quotidian, the familiar, the ordinary: for example, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, the in literary terms revolutionary piece of fiction that follows the everyday, unspectacular actions of Clarissa Dalloway as she experiences London in less than twenty four hours. Localization, therefore, is a product of intimacy. Becoming acquainted with one person familiarizes with a community. Although it appears that location does not matter, geography exists and cannot be ignored. And although the Internet and its culture is highly specific, the consequences of connection becomes globalization, yet also localization. Twitter simply links to some acquaintances on a global scale, and others on a local scale.
Can I answer the question, Why is Twitter famous? According to Alice, fame represents value. So what does the populace of the Internet value? Connection. Ease. And I suppose a little bit of humor. I guess Twitter’s popularity is due to people trying to find an easy way to make friends online. It’s not about being famous for fifteen minutes, or being known to one hundred people, or being connected to everyone by n degrees, or garnering a million hits. We want to get to know people, plain and simple.
Want to know me better? Follow me.