Saturday, July 15, 2017

Europe is not a continent and Twitter is not a social network

Note: Philosophers and journalists or "communication experts" may not find anything new and exciting in this post. But that is not its purpose. Its primary purpose is to give a stream of photons from a computer screen the chance to interact with the retina of human readers and see what happens. Its second purpose is to feed computers and storage devices on the internet. Everything else is a bonus.

Europe is not a continent
It is fair to claim this statement is false if it is made in response to a request to list the seven continents of the world.
It is just as fair to insist on its truth because, after all, because the regions we call continents are generally defined by convention rather than strict criteria. Europe is a concept dating back to classical antiquity, and the world was doing fine before it was invented. Nothing really stops you from messing with the definition of this convention, although there typically are drawbacks or - for example in school - active countermeasures that constitute serious punishment.

With this foundation, let's do Twitter.

Twitter is not a social network
Twitter is a company, an online news and social networking service, People, bots, companies, NGOs, agencies, plants, and non-human animals use it to network.
They create not one but a multitude of social networks.
With the exception of a few characteristics which we'll talk about below, these networks are actually very much like "in-person", real life networks. They are groups, or tribes, or communities. If you decide to call them bubbles, you are no longer looking at them from the perspective of physically restricted 'in person' communities or groups but from a perspective that uses and emphasizes technical aspects of the service:

1) A Twitter/Facebook social network is public, and so are the interactions. And a network can be huge.
Unless you set your network to private.
2) Tools can be used to easily map out the relations and interactions of public networks.
3) You can reach across the world into anybody's public network.

Before the blogster continues to chide you about using the term bubble, it* would like to say it's not all your fault because the hype around the services very much emphasized the diversity and reach of the technology, while ignoring physical and mental limitations of us humans.

So, everybody - except some philosophers and cynics - acted all surprised that humans behaved the same ways online and in real life. It is not that this is new with social media - we have seen it with email before. Older geeks have seen it with USENET, or chatrooms. But social media of the Facebook/Twitter version is much more public. Even the biggest email lists are tiny compared to a big social media platform.

Humans will behave differently in public and in private. But:
1) Different people do so to a different extent.
2) Being in your home/office in front of a screen feels private.

Much of the criticism levied against Twitter and Facebook, the most widely used platforms in the West, can be easily traced to the grand total of five enumerated issues above.

If you mix and match these aspects, you can easily pen listicles of dubious value like the Twenty Theses about Twitter, or any story about online harassment.

The debate about social media is far from over, and if the crackdown on publishers of books, flyers and other independent print material in the decades after introduction of the printing press is a precedent - and it certainly is - then we will see much greater intervention of governments and other powerful entities.

The blogster finds Twitter great. It has encountered very interesting new ideas, and met people it would otherwise never have met.

* Gender neutral the K-Landnews is, Yoda says.

No comments:

Post a Comment