Monday, June 06, 2011

Talking about Twitter

Thanks to links from John Sheridan (@sherro58) and Kerry Webb (@kwebb), I've been reading some of the latest articles and blog posts talking about Twitter.

They attempt to analyse and 'place' Twitter on the spectrum of human communication - discussing whether the service is more like text or like speech.

They also discuss the potential impacts of Twitter and other digital mediums on our brain chemistry and behaviour (which, incidentally, are affected by everything we do and learn).

I personally believe the best analogy to Twitter is thinking, not speech or text.

Twitter involves millions of individuals sharing small pieces of data at irregular intervals.  Taken together they form a mechanical stream of consciousness, layers of data, thoughts and experiences, most of it occurring outside of the conscious level of Twitter users (who don't follow these accounts or simply aren't looking at Twitter at the right time).

Many tweets - pieces of data - simply flow through the system and disappear, much like random thoughts.

However some contain data with interesting information pieces, such as news stories and events. These trigger some individual to click through to the full article in a webpage or video - a 'memory'.
 At other times Tweets form into conversations, between individuals or groups - frequently under a hashtag. While many of these conversations end unresolved, some build new knowledge on existing information or otherwise generate new ideas, leading to a further cascade of realisations.


The goal of all of these tweets is not necessarily to be lasting monuments to human achievement, or even to be relevant to most Twitter users. Some are signposts to more comprehensive content, memory markers for the web, others are processes of rationalisation, realisation or decision-making, or instant reports and analysis on 'now'.

If humans developed mechanical telepathy and connected several hundred million people together I believe the flow of content would not be dissimilar to the flow of information and dross across Twitter.

In fact, if we invented mechanical telepathy, Twitter might be a excellent medium for the transition of ephemeral and fast changing thoughts, using tools like hashtags to tie together sequences.


I've attached links to the pieces John and Kerry brought to my attention below, together with several student views on Twitter and several interesting infographics:

Thoughts about Twitter from several students in the Advanced Broadcast Journalism course at the University of Canberra:
Twitter Infographics:

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