Posted by: lcowie | November 21, 2008


Elon community analyzes and shares its optimistic viewpoint on Twitter

Is it pointless or to the point?

by Lesley Cowie

Ken Calhoun said that technology is changing every minute. Calhoun, a communications professor, spoke to a group of students Nov. 18 about the new Interactive Media masters program at Elon. Although Calhoun did not mention Twitter in his presentation, it is possible that, with the ever-changing pace of technology and journalism, the program will have to utilize the tool in some way.

Twitter asks its users what they are doing and provides a space for a response.

Twitter asks its users what they are doing and provides a space for a response.

Twitter is a micro-blogging website that allows its users to send and read other peoples’ updates. These updates are called tweets and are limited to 140 characters.

“With its requirement for people to squeeze their thoughts into 140 characters or less, Twitter is a perfect tool for a fast-paced, mobile society,” said Janna Anderson, director of a research project called Imagining the Internet. “My research for the Pew Internet Project indicates that mobile devices such as smartphones are going to become most people’s primary communications devices globally by 2020. Compressed information fits and it offers quick-hitting details we can apply to our lives.”

Anderson also explained that people follow the tweets of individuals and organizations from whom they want information. This differs from cell phones, she said, because users can follow people that they have never met and attain information that is extremely useful data.

“It’s called ‘microblogging’ because some people use it just to inform their friends about what they are doing minute-by-minute, for instance writing things like, ‘I just voted for Obama, and now I’m headed over to Starbucks to get my free cup of Election Day coffee,’ Anderson said.

Twitter was founded by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone in 2006. Stone also helped make other social networking sites, like Xanga, Blogger, Odeo and Obvious.

Dorsey said the idea for Twitter came from the constant reporting that comes out of couriers, taxis and 911 centers. These dispatches have translated into IM statuses and SMS. Dorsey wanted to enable his friends and family this kind of constant reporting.

“I believe the velocity Twitter enables from wherever you are is exposing what’s happening in the world RIGHT NOW from people who are experiencing it directly,” he said. “That level of exposure hasn’t been seen before. It certainly flavors journalism of today and points to how we interpret the news of tomorrow.”

Dorsey went on to say that Twitter’s ease is its most popular feature. In the future, he said, users can expect it to become even easier.

“Twitter is strongest in it’s simplicity and how little it asks you to do,” Dorsey said.You don’t have to think much about using Twitter to update friends and follow them, and that’s important in our world of increasingly overwhelming information flow. Good technologies stay out of the way and become a part of the background; you use them intuitively. That allows lightweight communication in real-time which exposes trends in your social networks and the world which sparks further conversation and interaction.”

This spark of interaction began in San Francisco, CA, where Twitter is currently headquartered. Now people from around the world use the site.

Daniel Huffines, assistant manager at the Kangaroo Express at 110 W Haggard Ave., said that has used Twitter for four months. A self-described computer nerd, Huffines said he found out about the site somewhere over the Internet.

Technology enthusiast Daniel Huffins smiles at the thought of using Twitter.

Technology enthusiast Daniel Huffins smiles at the thought of using Twitter.

“The site is funny because you can talk to other people and find out what is going on in the world,” he said. “I’m not on there too much…maybe like once a day. I like to twitter about everyday life and read about news, politics and how peoples’ days went.”

Huffines said about 30 users follow him and that he follows 64 people. Whether or not he decides to follow someone depends on what kinds of things the person writes about. If someone blogs about news or politics, Huffines said he is likely to follow.

“It is interesting to read about how other peoples’ days went and to see what’s going on in parts of the world where I can’t be,” he said.

Newspapers and other organizations are also posting on Twitter. During Election 2008, Elon’s student newspaper, The Pendulum, frequently updated its Twitter site. President-elect Barack Obama was said to have had a site on Twitter, too.

Twitter has become an integral part of citizen journalism. The site allows anyone to post news and updates. Depending on one’s interest, these updates could be very useful.

“I’m following a number of technology people and media experts,” Anderson said. “I’m getting a steady stream of data from interesting people like Tim O’Reilly, the man who coined the term Web 2.0, and Jay Rosen, a new-media columnist.”


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