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The world's a twitter

June 19th, 2008 · No Comments · web 2.0

I overheard on the radio this morning, while scraping the toast, some mention of twitter and the fact that some person in Downing St. is twitting (tweeting?) regularly about what’s going on there. I made a mental note to look it up on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme listen again. Partly because I usually mislay mental notes and partly because my small group of twitter mates might be interested I posted a tweet (twit?) mentioning it. Within a short time someone posted a reply giving me the URL to the programme and how far to fast forward to find the relevant bit (14 mins 30 secs) and telling me that the Today programme  runs a twitter channel itself. Looking at this I see that most, perhaps all, BBC Regional news services have twitter channels too. A little later my original tweet got another reply with a link to the Downing St. twitter channel and to Bill Thompson who was being interviewed on the Today programme, from where I found the interviewer, Rory Cellan-Jones. This in turn led me to another tweet with links to a Guardian article about the Downing St. twitter-er.

I must say I find the twitter phenomenon fascinating. It is ripe for sociological analysis and I’m sure someone somewhere is already doing it. It exemplifies so many aspects of on-line social networking  – networks within networks, the power the ‘friends of a friend’ connections, the importance of reputation and status, the collective and collaborative evaluation and dissemination of information and resources, and much more. Who would have thought that a stream of short messages (max 14o characters), often about where people are, what they are eating, watching on TV, what mood they are in, what the weather is like where they are, that they are in a traffic jam eating chocolate, and so on could also be such a powerful research tool. And the seemingly trivial nature of many posts is not trivial at all in the context of groups of twitter-ers and the nature of their identities and relationships and the reality of their ‘virtual’ community. I’m getting close to abandoning the notion of’ virtual in these contexts. It just obscures more of the nature of these sorts of communities and their relations than it illuminates. The experience is real, the information is real, the people are real, their activities are real and, dare I say it, the feeling of attachment and even to some extent obligation are real. Or at least as real as in some networks and communities I am involved with off-line.

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