Sunday, July 27, 2008

Twitter, Blogs, and the Public Sphere

A recent Fast Company feed by Robert Scoble that offers some incisive nuggets on Twitter, RSS, MSFT, and several other user/tech trends has me thinking about the ever-changing public sphere. I am particularly curious about the claim that Twitter will continue to emerge as the update/news/marketing vehicle of preference. I can certainly see how this would work, and Scoble's habits of information foraging and consumption are in line with my own as well as so many others.

Print media plays less and less of a role in my life and, like Scoble, RSS feeds seem less attractive to me these days. Scoble argues in this piece, which is actually highlights from a week's worth of tweetstream (ah, postmodern narrative once again), that Twitter is the public conversation with diverse interests. I read his piece to fuse Twitter with blogs' messages in a way that complements both...ultimately creating a dialogue and remediation of events of interest. His specific claim is, "Twitter is the public square. Lots of noise, little signal. Blogs are like a speech. Signal, but little noise ... ". Such rich information texture fulfills a role that decaying print media cannot. His points make sense.

With such user-centric "news" construction however, a sincere concern over criticality does emerge. Sometimes institutional authorities, like "experts" in historical media, do offer information in a way that deconceals certain beliefs or "common sense". Blogs can do this too, but they can also reinscribe ill-founded notions, such as sexism or racism. Not to get all librarian/English teacher about this, but the ability to scrutinize sources and information is key here. To this end, Fred Stutzman's April post on curation is a good read for such sentiment.

Assuming we are inserted upon this path, it makes sense to look for creative, efficient, and informative ways to leverage social media so that the information we need (whether we know it or not) gets to us. Equally as important, is the commitment to questioning bias in information and the applications/devices that deliver it to us. Limitations (like that of print) or blind spots (like perspectives of many bloggers) must be held in account.

No comments: