Big ol’ Twitter study

Visual aid.

Twitter’s social objects are statuses (colloquially known as “tweets”), or rather “mini statuses” that the user updates to his or her twitter page so that others may see. Statuses/updates/tweets can be submitted instantly at any time using either the computer or a mobile device. The updates are limited to 140 characters each, forcing the user to be as succinct as possible, simultaneously raising and challenging the notion that brevity often precludes substance. However, if Twitter only included the ability to post your own updates, there would be no possibility for interaction at all. On Twitter, your updating can be monitor by other users, these users can monitor your updates instantly (as they happen) because they are “following” you.

When a Twitter user follows another user, they can see the updates of the person they are following on their twitter page. The trick is, if that person is not also following you, they cannot see your updates on their page. This Is what distinguishes Twitter from Facebook, as the “friending” action on Facebook creates mutual interaction between the users who have friended one another. In contrast, “following” on Twitter is not a two way street unless both users want it to be.

However, if you are following someone you can “reply” to their tweets and that reply will show up on their homepage, even if they are not following you. In some ways this can open the door for interaction between two people who would not normally interact under any circumstances. Celebrities for example will more often than not have more followers than people they are following, in this way they can limit the amount of interaction they have on Twitter. However, if a “layperson” replies to a celebrities tweet, said celebrity will have been introduced to their followers Twitter page, and thus become exposed to their followers tweets. In turn, the celebrity can either ignore the reply, or they can reply back to it. Note that they can reply back to it without having to follow the person as well, thus maintaining the limits they have established.

Statuses are not the only objects being acted upon through the use of Twitter. One can also “tweet” links or pictures in place of an update, as a way of exposing something that the user might find interesting and worth viewing. While “personal” statuses are also an exchange of information, the type of information being exchanged is different than statuses that contain links to articles, pictures or videos. Note that videos and pictures can not be embedded into tweets and must be hyperlinked. By sharing these things to others through their tweets, users are making their tweets objects of value and knowledge, rather than personal updates and musings. The value of a tweet, just like anything else, depends on content; however, content is emphasized over form, which frustrates those (like myself) who believe that the content value of a piece of an object is informed by the style in which it is presented. As far as Twitter users are concerned, the form of presentation is inconsequential compared to the content of the content of the object itself. For the most part the “tweeters” are not the ones who have communicated the information in the first place, they are simply presenting or passing on something someone else has created, which means that the information has already been presented for them.

I determined all of this based on the bare facts regarding the way Twitter functions. For example, if the author Neil Gaiman links to an article from the Huffington Post in one of his tweets, he is sharing information that he himself has not written, but he believes that the object itself contains value. Therefore he is not held responsible for the form of the information, since he is simply relaying it to others. The value of the articles content is established by the person who linked it, because they would not have linked it if they did not consider it to be something of value; the user who views the article can determine its value as an object for themselves, since such things are subjective by nature.

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~ by frankmc5 on November 16, 2009.

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