I’m a slow merger onto the information highway.
Information highway. Isn’t that quaint term now? And speaking of more information, I now have a Twitter account but I’m not sure how best to use it. My pal, Dr. Blog, likens it to passing notes to your pals in class ~ short and a wee bit sassy, alluding to little inside jokes only your posse would find amusing. I also like the brevity of the media — a little more wordy than a haiku, but enough characters to get witty ‘wit it. You can follow all kinds of people and fashion a whole world view out of tweets. I completely understand the marketing value of the thing ~ if you have something to sell, it is pretty groovy. And I like using those keys & symbols on the keyboard that we so often neglect (unless we are cursing in prose) like #.
I follow my friends, far and wide they may be, because I am interested in the things they’re interested in, if only to give me some platform for deeper conversation. I follow some people linked to institutions or organizations that share my points of view. And the spooky Twitter algorithms keep re-introducing me to old friends ~ reality friends! But I am disappointed by the people who have ghost writers tweeting on their behalf or just pulling quotes from their books. Really? You make your living as a writer and you can’t spare 19 -30 words out of your day to give to your personal assistant on a napkin to type for you, really?
So I’ve been studying up on the Twitter a bit. I read a little piece by Jesse Kornbluth, editor of HeadButler.com, about “trending” on Twitter. I’ve worked in the fashion industry so I think I know a little bit about trends, and something we used to call the fashion cycle. From a business perspective you could track a trend from its genesis (or early success at retail) and plan to grow it over a term of 12 to maybe 24 months. After that period you assume the item has reached maturity, or market saturation, and you plan for the post-peak, or clean-up/markdown, of any left-over stock. In the Twitterverse something is “trending” when there is tsunami of tweets about it and that deluge basically drowns it, because it becomes today’s top story until tomorrow when the next hot trend takes its place, before anybody even has a chance to figure out what the heck it was all about. Twitter is really a flat platform powered by humans, and so any topic that can reach critical mass can become the most important issue of the day ~ celebrity gossip can be just a weighty as the death of Steve Jobs. But it is also cool Twitter can help broaden the reach of groups like Occupy Wall Street (#OWS). So Twitter is like any other kind of tool: in some hands it is a force for good, for most it’s a harmless diversion, and a few take it over to the dark side.
Sociologists are studying these torrents of digital data to learn more about our moods. For example, the use of swear words increases during periods of negative mood, such as at the beginning of the fall equinox, when humans anticipate shorter (and sometimes colder) days ahead. This led the researchers to believe that circadian rhythms were influencing our moods. But it is not an exact science: the researchers were hampered a bit dealing with words without context ~ for example, swearing could be used in both a literal or a sarcastic manner. In those cases, word count alone falls short in assessing the subtleties of language. Dr. Dan Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist pointed out, “I suspect that if you counted the good and bad words people said during intercourse, you’d mistakenly conclude that they were having an awful time.” So you see, the human elements of context and judgement are still critical in this brave new world. Final example: I tweeted recently that I’ll be looking for a front-loading washing machine in the next few days (the current one is now too old to spin) and I gained a new follower:
Yep, the farm-loading business is on the Twitter, but their ‘bot needs to do a little filtering.