Category Archives: twitter

@MOM, twitter #addmeaning or #losemeaning?

Last week we read Vannevar Bush’s essay “As we may think” and one aspect I truly found fascinating was the purpose for what he came up with the idea of the memex: an effort to arrange a mechanism to automate the actions of saving, indexing and retrieving the human knowledge.

“The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers— conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear.”

Another aspect of Bush’s essay was the division of human thought:

“For mature thought there is no mechanical substitute. But creative thought and essentially repetitive thought are very different things. For the latter there are, and may be, powerful mechanical aids.”

In a way, it’s comforting to acknowledge that information overload is not a concern exclusive of our times and this can also be seen with other concerns such as medium shaping the way we write.

Bush wrote “As we may think” in 1945 on the Atlantic magazine; in 2008 Nicholas Carr wrote on the same magazine an article posing the question “Is Google making us stupid?”.

The article is very thorough and presents us several examples of how writers or philosophers felt through time with the introduction of new mediums and threats they may pose:

For instance in the book Phaedrus by Plato, Socrates laments about the development of writing: “He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.”

The same kind of concern was shown by the Italian humanist Hieronimo Squarciafico after the event of the Gutenberg press “worried that the easy availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness, making men less studious and weakening their minds.”

Another example is the one of Nietzsche, who saw his prose become more telegraphic when he adopted the typewriter: “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”

Raising the same kind of concerns towards Twitter would the obvious next thing to do, after all, according to a study by Harvard published on the bbc site there is an estimate of more than 10 million users.

While trying to answer the question “Will meaning increase with the shortening and acceleration of text-based conversations or are we losing something with this acceleration?” I remembered a remark one conference presenter at PICNIC made while opening his talk:

“What a wonderful event, so many talks being exchanged over twitter and blog entries, there are more people talking there than there are actually here on the event”

Inside the Picnic Club there was a huge screen displaying the feeds of twits that were being released under the hashtags #PICNIC09 and boy were they updated by the second.

So what we saw with all these tweets of the event was the birth of a parallel event, a second layer of discussion that brought a wider audience into the Picnic event and that made it go on the web even after the event itself has ended: the event ended on the 28th of September but 8 hours ago there were still people tweeting about it .

Maybe not much meaning can be added with a stream of 140 tweets, but that stream can offer a real time stream of thoughts and links to the people who didn’t attend the event , comments from the inside to the outside. Of course that this cannot be a labour of the mature thought Bush talked about. In my opinion this is food for our increasing crave for entertainment and distraction.

The more the technology provides us ways to be connected the more ON we seem to need to be.

And for the users who actually were on the event, the possibility of commenting allowed them to personally follow/make the heartbeat of the event ; you can’t get much closer than this.

Another study presented by Nielsen in April this year reports that more than 60 percent of U.S. twitter users fail to return the following month. It would be interesting to understand the reasons why people don’t come back.

I have a Twitter account, but just like my friends, I don’t pay much attention to it and yet we struggle to understand why the 40% that keep coming back and do use the service make such a fuss about it!

Yesterday (Sunday) one of the Trending Topics was #iminchurch in less than a minute 32 tweets were added to the thread, in one hour 2025!

Maybe it’s because we haven’t update our mobile phones or maybe because we haven’t yet adopted this new language.

I wonder what Shakespeare tweeted if he had a Twitter account and someone did a very nice post about it.

18 Tweets You Might See, If Shakespeare Used Twitter

  1. Need Photoshop expert with mad skillz in hiding Adam’s apples. DM me if interested.
  2. Is it realistic that a king would be convinced his wife is unfaithful based only on a misplaced handkerchief? Pls tweet yes or no kthanxbai.
  3. I’m not comfortable with the title of bard, yet. I think of myself as an OG Soneteer, really.
  4. Told @BenJonson I’d be in his play, as long as it wasn’t another freaky masque about mice or some shit. Dude needs to cut down on the absinthe.
  5. Just unfollowed @GuyKawasaki, dude still hasn’t put me in Alltop, and he updates too damn much about sidewalk chalk & other useless shit.
  6. Pshaw Virgin Queen! Virgin Queen my ass!
  7. Of course @KennethBrannaugh is too old 4 Hamlet! Was a 2-film deal w/ Sony tho. Still bitter about @MelG, too. @&%! Hollywood
  8. So, then, I was like, we can talk all you want about hacks for increasing productivity, but I don’t see anybody coming up with something better than a feather for me to write with.
  9. Added @CMarlowe to my blogroll, now that I’ve removed the no-asshats policy.
  10. Mtg at Koi 2nite w/ network execs re 12th nite pilot–wondering if I should lose the flavor-saver?
  11. @PornGirls69 Thanks for the follow back! Let’s keep tweeting.
  12. Haven’t tweeted in ten days. Fucking Twilight series!
  13. RT help @QueenE help you: theaters closed again #plague.
  14. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Nah.
  15. To those that unfollowed after the @CMarlowe tweet, whatevs, I’m just saying what everyone else is thinking.
  16. Looks like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays. I’m looking in your direction @SWRaleigh.
  17. Anybody ever notice that the Spaniards are always dressed in all black? What’s that about, do you think?
  18. Like the new album, but yeah, #KanyeWest is a total douchebag.

Use of Twitter by politicians with representative seats in the Portuguese parliament

Twitter made its first appearance in 2006, through Jack Dorsey’s will to put in practice his idea of an SMS (short messaging service) which would allow individuals to communicate with a small group of people.

Even though it appeared in 2006, it was only in 2009 that Portuguese politicians with representative seats in the parliament started using this microblogging tool that unites the SMS with social networking.

It all started in the beginning of January 2009 with the journalist Anabela Neves, working on the coverage and analysis of politics, who sent out an invitation to seven representatives and to the Presidency of the Republic to join a blog.

This blog was and is called “Minuto a Minuto” (“Minute by Minute”) and exists within a website called “Parlamento Global” (“Global Parliament”), which is updated by journalists and has the objective of being a neutral space where one can follow the events related to Portuguese politics/politicians.

“Minuto a Minuto” follows the political debates within the Portuguese parliament live with comments and invites representatives, candidates and commentators to actively participate. Occasionaly a group of “normal” citizens is also invited. There are several ways to participate and representatives were asked to create their own Twitter accounts, so that when they sent out new tweets, these would immediatly be visible on “Minuto a Minuto”.

Even though the Presidency of the Republic only maintains a very formal participation, only revealing the agenda of the Portuguese President (our president is not Obama), for 2 to 7 representatives participating became a habit.

Participation started out in a shy way, but nowadays the parliament, which has 230 representatives, already has 49 active Twitters, meaning 21% of the representatives are present in the Twittersphere.

Number of Portuguese parliament representatives, by political party, who currently use Twitter

But why do politicians use Twitter after all?

Some politicians (Hermínio Loureiro and Jorge Seguro Sanches) defend that Twitter is an approximation channel between politicians and citizens, a barometer of the citizens’ opinion, on the hand it is also used to actively discuss with other politicians; some politicians also mention the possibility using Twitter for the current election (27th of September) campaigns.

In the beginning of July a new platform was launched that aggregates the representatives’ tweets. It is called “Twitica“.
There is a pole regarding Twitica in Twitter, the question is “What is the biggest advantage of a representatives’ presence in Twitter?”. So far there have only been 20 answers, but the curious thing is that the most voted answer is “Understanding his/her human facet.”.

It was also in July that some polemics started showig up related to Twitter and the life of national politics.
What happened was that during the time of a session in the parliament, representatives use the opportunity to create parallel debates with the following added values: no time control, journalists (who have also quickly joined Twitter) can follow, and mainly, the possibility of breaking the protocol.

In the parliament of Azores (Portuguese island) tension built up two times because of two comments which had been posted on Twitter by a socialist representative (Alexandre Pascola) during the session and about two other representatives from different parties (PSD and CDS). There was an exchange of accusations during the session and this representative was accused of cowardice and of using his time to participate in the session with other goals. Alexandre Pascoal refuted these ideas saying that he believes that these polemics should be traced back to a generations gap.
Could it be that only the younger representatives use Twitter?

Ages of the representatives in the Portuguese parliament that currently use Twitter

As a result of these polemics, the president of the Azores parliament wants to regulate the use of Twitter in the parliament starting in September.

There was another mediatic case in the beginning of July related to Twitter and our representatives in the Portuguese parliament: our Minister of Economics was fired live, during a session in the “State of the Nation Assembly”, after having made an offensive gesture towards a representative of the opposition and mainly improperfor the place he was in.

Still before the minister demited himself, the subject was already being discussed in a parallel debate between representatives on Twitter. Twitter ended up giving, in a fast way, the dimension of the public opinion to what in another way might have passed as an unnoticed gesture.
On the other hand what is interesting is to verify that it’s not the politicians with most media projection, or in any way better known, that are on Twitter.

It would be nice to have Twitter bring a kind of dialogue approach from politicians towards citizens and vice-versa, as opposed to the monologue speech, and that our public opinion, these days not very participative in political matters, finds a way of manifesting about the state of the nation.

But for now Twitter is working amongst the Portuguese parliament’s representatives allowing the:

– (For politicians) Creation of parallel debates between representatives, adding layers of discussion;
– (For journalists) Creation of the opportunity to participate, but most of all to read these parallel debates and see opportunities for breaking news;
– (For the general public) Interaction with the representatives, but most citizens can get to know the more human side of politicians, a facet until then unaccessible, and what Clive Thompson calls “ambient awareness”, in his words, “by following these quick, abbreviated status reports from members in your extended social network, you get a strangely satisfying glimpse of their daily routines”.

Comment about Clive Thompson pasted from TIME.

Number of representatives of the Portuguese parliament, by gender and by political party, who currently use Twitter


All of the graphics above were created using data from September 1st, 2009.