Crushed Twitter expectations

I’m taking a class in “computer-mediated communication (CMC)”.  We met yesterday for the first time.  As with all classes on the first day, it was a simple review of the syllabus and introductions of instructor and students.

We briefly discussed different modes of CMC (email, blogs, MUDs/MOOs, microblogs, etc.) and their social consequences.  I’m excited about this class, as I’ve recently gotten more and more interested in this subject.

I’ve been using CMC for a very long time.  Since I’m old skool and graduated from college in ’94, I was around when MUDs and MOOs were popular.  I dabbled in them.  But, around 1995 I become obsessed with AOL, which was THE thing back then.  I was constantly online.  (My friends always complained because they couldn’t reach me on the phone…remember 56k modems?)  I loved to surf the net and “play around” in chat rooms and talk to “friends” via instant messaging.  In fact, I met my husband in one of those chat rooms.

Anyway, after the class, I was thinking about the influence of CMC on society. Then, I got to witness just what I was thinking about.

I am a regular on Twitter, a microblogging network.  If you’re not familiar with it, people can post (aka tweet) up to 140 characters.  That post is then able to be read by the people’s “followers”. Sometime in the afternoon, I read a tweet by twitscoop, which basically just tracks the popular trends on Twitter at the time.  The tweet noted that there was a lot of talk on Twitter about explosions at a NYC power plant.  I did a little keyword search on Twitter and saw that there were also a lot of talk about an explosion on a bus at LAX.

Wanting to find more information, I began to scour the online media sites.  But, I couldn’t find anything anywhere about the two events.  My first thought was that it was another terrorist attack (it’s not that far from September 11th!).  And, during those first thoughts, I found myself very pleased that the thing was being reported by average everyday Joes like me through Twitter.  “Who needs the media?!  We can be our own reporters!”

But, after not finding out any information on the two events for 30 minutes, I figured it couldn’t be anything serious.  CNN and MSNBC would have been all over it if it were.  Turns out it was a small fire in the power plant and at LAX, well a bus passenger accidentally hit a fire extinguisher with his luggage and caused it to explode.  LOL

So, tweeters are the reporters I was hoping they would be.  And, really, why did I have such a hope?  People are people (so why should it be….oh, wait, this isn’t the place ofr ’80s lyrics…), and they’re going to be reactionary.  And, Twitter provides a great medium to be reactionary.

So, now the question becomes, when do you believe everything you read on Twitter?


2 responses to this post.

  1. I don’t think Twitter or its members are to blame for the news not being a national or coordinated incident. It doesn’t take away from the quality of the collective reporting being done in 140-character bursts.

    It may be too difficult now to go back and look at the reactions, but I would be very curious to know if the spike that led to the Twitscoop notice was because of false expectations of something bigger or a simple retweeting of an incomplete story. The former would probably be an indication that, as a culture, we are still jittery some 7 years later. That reaction itself is an interesting story.

    The fact that there is a channel that does bring the pulse of world events closer to each of us is the win here. For the people traveling in those locations that day, the information may have been quite valuable.

    Enjoy the CMC course. It’s a very interesting area, and I hope you blog about the class a lot.


  2. Posted by Ankit on September 8, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Really interesting post Jenny. I hope we get to have these kinds of discussions in the CMC class.


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