Tuesday, September 22, 2009

He Probably Won't Read It, But I Wrote It Anyway...

Here is an email message I wrote to Daniel Lyons in response to his idiotic Newsweek article about Twitter culture:

Hi Mr. Lyons,

I read your commentary today about Twitter in your article "Don't Tweet On Me" and I am really quite embarrassed that Newsweek would publish such a poor, banal piece of critical thinking.

The anti-Twitter bandwagon is an easy one to jump on, but it constantly misunderstands and mis-categorizes the medium of microblogging and other current Web technologies.  One of your biggest misconception is that you describe all twitter users- "D-list celebrity half-wits and pathetic attention seekers" as you call them- as having the same audience, and this is simply not true. 

When users interact on sites such as Twitter and Facebook, although, technically, they are broadcasting like a television show or radio program, their utterances and comments are not meant to be looked at through the lens of traditional broadcasting.  From a broadcasting point of view, their comments do indeed seem bland, pointless, or self-indulging.  But in fact these comments are speaking to a small set of fellow users that are friends and acquaintances who might care about what the speaker is talking about.  In this way, figures like "40 percent of the messages [on Twitter] are 'pointless babble'" are totally useless.  It's like saying 40 percent of what you said today on your lunch break is pointless babble, or 40 percent of what you said to your family at the dinner table last night was pointless babble.  In the context of those situations, your speech makes perfect sense, but judged against the entire content of the internet, it may seem a bit useless. (Also, please point me to that study, I'd be very interested to see its methodology and how it defined the term "pointless babble....")

You "third-wavers" often forget that twitter is a tool, and people use that tool in whatever way seems useful to them.  The beauty of Twitter is its choice and openness, and if people are choosing to pay attention to Dane Cook's blabbering in 140 characters or less, perhaps its the fault of the culture industry that created him and not the freedom of the tool.  Can we really blame the telephone for the substance of the human conversations that take place through it?

Twitter isn't going away any time soon, and I invite you to reconsider your cultural criticism in a more thoughtful, intellectual way, perhaps even reviewing the literature (perhaps start with some Clay Shirky or Yochai Benkler) before you regurgitate your trite, vapid, antiquity all over Newsweek's readers and help spread a naïvely misleading and destructive luddite-ism throughout the modern world.

Thank you for potentially reading this,
// Jason Blanchard

I'm just getting sick of the same dumb comments that lack the very substance they claim the Web is destroying....

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