By and large this is a question that does not usually elicit an interesting response. However in the world of news-reporting – digital media often covers the essential how, who, when and where questions of journalism, because our communication mediums are increasingly location aware, user-specific and time stamped. What is a question that requires actual human input – and in the past 3 years people have been answering it in terms of Facebook status updates, and for the early adopters – by joining the twitterverse.
Yesterday, however, the answer to that burning question reached critical mass and took on historic significance. Whilst some protested and others wondered about what was going on outside their office walls, multi-tasking employees were able to get on with their work whilst receiving a blow by blow account of history unfolding. It has been overstated to the point of cliché that the medium is the message – but yesterday the message made a medium and Twitter found its place in the global setting. Beyond the news-helicopters, simple tweets turned digital enthusiasts into citizen journalists and for once, a multitude of opinions on the same subject were heard. Suddenly all the hype made sense – some of us had tweeted previously to moderate effect, but for most of us not concerned about letting the world into our daily happenings, Twitter just left us scratching our heads.
The power of Twitter is its ability to allow multiple voices to communicate disparate opinions in unison. Of course, its fantastic to be in the loop of the wonderful world of Stephen Fry via twitter – but what we saw yesterday was not celebrity admiration, but rather the changing documentation of history, where instead of being written by the victors, we captured a glimpse through the eyes of the observer – raw, unfiltered and uncesorable. We have seen dictatorships stifle freedom of expression in blogs and websites – but the immediacy of Twitter gives the voice on the individual more resonance than before.
Of course history in the making needn’t be people tweeting from Hurricane Katrina or Tiananmen Square – we all have histories, cultural histories and personal histories. A father tweeting the anxiety of being in the waiting room whilst his child his being born, a techy tweeting the anticipation at a tech-conference whilst waiting for Steve Jobs to unleash Apple’s new toy, or a Machester United fan tweeting from the stands during half-time with the score at 1-1. Every generation alters the way it communicates, and it seems that those alterations are happening more frequently. In 6 years we have gone from long-form e-mail, to group e-mails, to text message, on to Facebook and finally: Twitter.
Of course Twitter has its critics, and there are those who see it as a distraction and a detraction from complete discourse. But so often when our collective brains are abuzz with thought, instead of thinking in full sentences or having complete thoughts, our minds are aflutter with neural tweets.
Could Twitter be the closest we have come to reflecting how our society collectively thinks, sees and experiences the world?
Tags: #G20, anarchists, london riots, obama in london, Twitter, twittering the riots