Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tweeting on Twitter is not just for nitwits

I was first turned on to Twitter last spring while watching Basic Black, a talk show about the African-American community focusing on arts, media, economics and politics, broadcasted by WGBH-Boston. Guests discussed how the black community was behind in their utilization of social networks on the Web, with a lack of access to computers seen as one obstacle to get connected.

"I really think that this is the future," said Dr. Patricia Hill Collins, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, speaking of social networking communities like Facebook and Twitter. "The whole notion of being untethered from the actual location where you are, if you live in a really bad neighborhood, or are in a bad family or on a bad block -- if you have access to a computer, you can actually participate in cyber communities with people who are like you across here in this country, or across the globe.

"I did a teaching situation once where I talked with a young woman who was a rap artist and she was telling me how she was in contact with her counterpart in South Africa ... [She] was networking with this poet in South Africa and they were forming relationships and getting ideas. It is truly a very interesting medium to think about social issues and to think about political issues."

It was at that point that Hiawatha Bray, the Boston Globe's go-to technology guy, pulled out his cellphone explaining that he could "tweet," or publish a microblog post at that very moment, to get whatever message he wanted out there in cyber space. Meaning, not only is it a tool of unity and empowerment, you could actually break news with this stuff!

With a community of reporters using Twitter, it can be construed as an effective information gathering service. Though it's content, I believe, should always be vetted and edited before reproduced. You don't always know who is behind the postings.

While Bray uses Twitter a lot of the time as a tool for his journalism work (e.g. "Looking for video gamers who are cutting back because of the economy...buying fewer games, cancelling WoW, that sort of thing. 12:26 PM Oct 17th"), he also uses to post the mundane minutiae of his everyday life: For instance, "It's bagel-eating time. 9:46 AM May 7th," "At Peoples Baptist Church 12:40 PM May 18th" and "Got me a haircut. Now I'm ready for my closeup tomorrow ... 5:22 PM Jul 2nd"

He also posts some of his stories there and other articles that he finds fascinating.

Another active "Twit" -- I just made that up, even though I think the proper term is "Tweeter" -- is Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU. I like how he uses Twitter to just blast his musings and quick, cringing critiques about the mainstream media's hypocrisies, conflicts of interest, uneven reporting, etc. He now has 3,455 followers.

This all made me think that 140-character blogging tool would be an excellent weapon in my arsenal of peace making tools. (As it is now, though, I see Facebook as far more prevalent, and it does have it's own "status update" device, which publishes little snippets in a similar fashion. Needless to say Facebook and Twitter can be synchronized, but I've had trouble with this: I can only get my Twitter posts on Facebook, not vice versa, and sometimes the Twitter Sync application to do this just stops functioning altogether.)

Although I'm not much of a social butterfly, usually; when it comes to social justice, however, this is just another outlet for my delight, humor and frustration.

Screenshot framed above is from my Twitter profile. Click here to explore my tweets.

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