Jan 4 2009

Getting the Twitter thing…

All new ways of communicating change… well, the way we communicate. They change society. They change human interactions and behavior.

The media is full of Twitter commentary these days, but here’s one of the more interesting articles I’ve seen:

Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it “ambient awareness.”

But as the days went by, something changed. Haley discovered that he was beginning to sense the rhythms of his friends’ lives in a way he never had before. When one friend got sick with a virulent fever, he could tell by her Twitter updates when she was getting worse and the instant she finally turned the corner. He could see when friends were heading into hellish days at work or when they’d scored a big success. Even the daily catalog of sandwiches became oddly mesmerizing, a sort of metronomic click that he grew accustomed to seeing pop up in the middle of each day.

This is the paradox of ambient awareness. Each little update — each individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting. This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating.

I’m sure people scoffed at the telephone when that particular wacky device entered the market. Did you know that before radios, people could get subscriptions to listen to theater and concert performances by telephone? Here’s a good reference.

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