Yearning for President Blog – OAG #9

Whatever Twitter offers to discourse or its preliminaries, information does not want only to be free to move on, or free to displace, then be displaced. It also wants to be free to stay, to be appreciated, to be invested with and to be attached to content, for a virtual community even if only a community of two or for a “community within” – the community of mind known to neuroscientists and philosophers, and, if they are right, to each and every one (or more) of us. Information does not want just to negate. It also wants to posit. Information wants to be free to be ephemeral, to be forgotten, to live for an intimate moment and vanish, but it also wants to be free to endure, to be recalled, to survive, to stand and fight as well as to snipe and flee.

The tension turns up in a social media phenomenon I noted a couple of weeks ago in, of course, a Tweet:

When I referred to “unwieldiness,” I meant the difficulties for both author and reader in organizing and responding to a “tweetstorm.” Depending on the app being used to compose and read, the storm1 may be interrupted at multiple points, either by author error or by a by a design not really intended to assemble and exhibit a long series of tweets: As a reader, when interested in a Thread (less often than perhaps once upon a time), I more often than not find myself clicking around looking for a rendering that simply presents the unadorned procession of tweets in order, without premature “conversation,” obstreperous “show more”‘s, and intervening errors.

Developers can seek to bridge the gap between instant impulse and extended consideration in different ways, perhaps with a focus on execution speed at transition points between Twitter and other-than-Twitter host. I hesitate to get into the technical questions before I have done some more work of my own, including on speeding up this very site, but I will note that there has been significant effort on the composition side, in the creation of tools for breaking text into tweets or quickly converting blocks of text into readable images. Why these tools have not caught on more broadly may in turn have to do with negative reactions to tweetstorms.

A storm or drizzle or bleating spate of tweets suggests a kind of bid for dominance, or at least a step on to a virtual soapbox. When I take my tweet-maker in hand and drizzle over your timeline in twenty or fifty emissions, I am defying Twitter’s forced formal egalitarianism, in which every tweet, of the million-follower star as well as of the new egg, takes up the same ca. 140-character moment of space-time.

Now, Twitter is not by any means a realm of complete equality. Still, some alternative options to deliver essentially the same extended content may be illustrative of the key way in which it mostly is.

If I were to compose a ca. 3000-character text, put it on my blog, and then proceed to tweet 25 minimally mutually distinct links to it, one per minute, I might be seen to have obviously spammed my followers’ timelines.

I could instead break the original text itself into 25 different numbered tweets, and likewise tweet them out, one a minute. The result would take up the identical amount of Twitter-turf, each tweet just as much a self-promotion, but, if every tweet was substantially different from every other one, I at least would have satisfied one of the two most basic Twitter imperatives, the presentation of novelty (as novelty for me and possibly for you), even if I’d still be failing on the other, connected imperative, on spontaneous immediacy in answer to the basic Twitter question – “What’s happening?”

The labor and preparation involved would also contradict the imperative of spontaneity, as also visible in the overly prepared Twitter storm, written out somewhere else for just this purpose. The artificial storm would almost certainly lack the aura of a thought in the process of being thought – because it obviously would not be that.

The deficit would be even more apparent were I to storm some major part of this post using David Winer’s “Little Pork Chop,” which partly automates the reconstructive disassembly of text into tweets. The result would partly satisfy both requirements, and also partly fail them: Like the contrived, pre-written but hand-delivered storm, the porked storm would also not be a “real” storm, and it would be even less likely to be received as one. It would take up the same amount of words, but, because Little Pork Chop goes instantly to tweets, rapid fire, the result would be less attention-commanding than the same series of tweets transmitted “the old-fashioned way” over a longer period. (No doubt LPC could be modified to imitate the Tweet Storm, but… that would be dishonest, and might even invite Twitter prohibition.)

The differences between the pork-storm and real storm bring us back to the initial observations on the gap and its difficulties. The aura of novelty and immediacy in the “act of tweeting” before a public consisting potentially or in theory of millions upon millions, or some significant percentage of one’s followership plus who knows how many others via retweets, may be irreplaceable and unique, regardless of how we attempt to mediate between “tweet here now” and the longer wave form of blogging -which latter also once seemed to provide an astonishing advance in bringing widely separated minds together on a topic of mutual interest, but which now seems to over-stress our patience.

Or we could put the matter in political terms, as during the immediate aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election, and in so doing also illustrated another alternative twitter and site mediation:

The Tweet-storm, in the age of President Tweet, remains a nostalgia-inducing afterimage of the blog and of the era of President Blog, but it may also point to a return to the possibility or image of coherent, accountable, and consequential civic discussion in a mass society, back from the Great Flood of clicks.

Notes:

  1. Sam Wilkinson’s term is, indeed, probably better than, say, “Twogging” for a series of tweets all on the same subject, deployed to bypass Twitter’s trademark character limit. I might suggest “Bleeting,” and I’ve also used the term “Tweet-Drizzle,” which seems less pretentious than “storm.” Twitter or rather its Tweeps seem lately to have moved in the direction of the simpler “Thread.” []


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Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

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By CK MacLeod

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

2 comments

    1. I think for these purposes Facebook would be a rough equivalent for blogging, though as an inferior alternative given Facebook’s limitations. As a “midpoint” Facebook seems to make it intentionally difficult to share smoothly to Twitter and other services, for example. Otherwise, there are just too many things you can’t do, or that it’s very difficult to do, with Facebook. The major thing it has going for it is that it is very good at doing what it does do: It’s very fast, for instance. I dislike it too much, and use it too little, to comment further on it with much confidence. What do you think?

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