Friday, 11 May 2012

WEB206 - Week 11: Flows

"Though the 140-character format is a constraint, it need not be seen as a limitation; while participants often shorten and otherwise modify tweets to fit into 140 characters, this characteristic of Twitter can also be seen as an advantage. The brevity of messages allows them to be produced, consumed, and shared without a significant amount of effort, allowing a fast-paced conversational environment to emerge" (boyd et. al., Forthcoming).

We are increasingly swimming in a river of information and nowhere is this more apparent than in current trends in social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The constant flow of information that is available to us and the ability to update others with information you think may be relevant to them is creating a media environment where the ability to communicate effectively in a concise way is of growing importance. This week we are going to be looking at techniques for publishing to the Internet that eschew the lengthy paradigms of traditional print media.

In a recent Pew Internet Survey, 11% of Americans indicated that they used some form of microblogging service. Microblogging refers to posting very short text or multimedia clips, often from a mobile device. By all indications it is likely that the use of microblogging will only increase. Although for many microblogging is merely a way of distributing stream-of-consciousness, "what are you doing right now?" style posts, the form can also be used to maintain conversations on specific subjects and to distribute information on a topic.

Given the nature of this course, one question that arises is that of whether we can really consider Twitter and similar services as a 'publishing' platform. Certainly there is an ephemeral feel to them that feels more akin to a personal conversation. However, microblogging is a clear indicator of the way we need to reconsider our ideas of what publishing entails in the context of new media. Notably the term 'publish' is derived from the Latin 'publicare' - "to make public", and this is what we do as we post into the twitterverse, whether this be a summary of what you had for breakfast, a pointer to an interesting link or a part of an ongoing distributed global conversation on a particular topic. The restriction of 140 words forces us to think about exactly what we want to say and how we can use such a small amount of text to grab the reader's attention.

This week's readings/viewing:
Nielsen, J. (2009). Twitter Postings: Iterative Design. Retrieved September 14th, 2009, from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/twitter-iterations.html.
Boyd, d., Golder, S., & Lotan, G. (Forthcoming, 2010). Tweet Tweet Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter. Paper presented at the HICSS-42, Persistent Conversation Track.
Marwick, A.E., & boyd, d. (2011). I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience. New Media & Society, 13(1), 114-133.

Activity - Discussion Questions
 
Although termed 'micro-blogging', how do you think Twitter differs from blogs in terms of the practices, conversations and experiences it produces?
Twitter enables quick, real-time conversation and the distribution of up-to-date information. I've encountered several events in the past year where I've found out about it on Twitter first. A lot of news reporters and outlets are now monitoring Twitter as a basis for news. The 140 character limitation means that it is quicker and easier for a lot of people to tweet than is is for them to blog. And the fact that all Tweets go via twitter.com means it is easy to engage with a wide variety of people (via hashtags etc.), as opposed to blogs where people need to go to that particular place to participate.

Following Johnson's article, what do you think of the various claims he makes that contribute to his assertion that "Twitter will change the way we live"?
I'm not sure that Twitter specifically will change the way we live, but I think it's fair to say that social media and the Internet in general already has. Although perhaps if you were living somewhere like Egypt earlier this year, where social media is generally credited as being behind the political uprising, then perhaps you might agree with Johnson that Twitter has changed their world. :-)

What influences do you think have given rise to the enormous success of Twitter as a communication platform?
Twitter is very simple to use, and there are many different ways of accessing it because the Twitter API is openly available for developers to access. I also think that the openness of the system has helped its success - the ability to follow anybody that interests you, including "famous" celebrities, sporting personalities and politicians, means that individuals can feel more connected to these people. As well, I find that the immediacy of topics and information, via the use of hashtags, means that I can quickly engage with others who share the same interests.
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