Life in fragments
… lots of bits. messy.
Tom pointed me at twitter. It’s another one of those social networking things which is the dull bit. The interesting bit is essentially it’s playing with time. You input what you’re doing NOW. Others do and from that you get a picture, a messy picture of the social world of people with nothing better to do. A bit like couch potatoes looking at a screen; these people aren’t doing a lot. Not great content. But it’s strangely compelling banality all the same. And aside from the realisation that i’m perhaps not as dull as I’d led myself to believe I was, OK I am but at least I’m busy dull :-D, is the more philosophical [and here I’m just undermining previous thought] point that time is essential a social construct, made from what we do. Do a lot and it speeds up. Do little and it barely shifts. This is a lot of very little which is fucking with the very constructs of time itself. But it doesn’t matter does it coz it’s just a website? Yes, but this is MSN/IM in broadcast mode, a symbol of where reality TV and ubquitous connectivity connect: granular, self-obsessed nowness. We’ve reached some end-point for ‘culture’. Maybe not, there’s a fightback. Slowness, craft. Doing stuff and making time is here… the counter revolution has begun and it’s going to be made really slowly and it’s going to be ill-fitting and not at all like the pattern promised.
Of course now I’m horribly hooked. And it’s made me think of IM less as a lower order form of communications – and less of comms within a hierachy at all – but rather as the glue with which we are able to pull together social exoeriences in what passes for the nodal points in social software – the MySpace pages, the twitter home pages, the delicious page etc. IM [rather than email etc.] is actually the glue through which such services often cohere and aggregate value. And twitter is genuinely innovative in its use of IM and txt to manage the feedback loops of a group. It’s a world away from the sort of thinking that produced the "chat around content" ideas that were floating around a few years ago where it was thought that there was sufficient interest around specific subjects in the form of web pages to have proprietory chat apps for people to meet and discuss the subject synchronously, in real time. And of course any elementary understanding of the way in which people communicate could tell you [especially with hindsight :-)] that most comms is about sharing dissimiliar information, things the other person doesn’t know [which could be contextual stuff – i’m doing x – or emotive stuff – i’m feeling y – or knowledge – i believe z] or things they do where they play with the subleties of what others are thinking or doing, especially within a pre-existing group dynamic.
So that’s what twitter does well, it builds on existing social and technical relations to allow for the comms to take place, it doesn’t seek to add value in any other way than in facilitating. And that’s quite cool. It still doesn’t get us away from the fact that its mostly utter shite, but the sort of necessary background shite with which we already engage in anyway – twittter just exposes it further.