Twitter vs. Geschnatter

It’s interesting to see happening now in the on-line German press a vigorous discussion of that latest of modern-day philosophical questions: Of what use – if any – is Twitter? Granted, the Germans are probably coming around rather late to this subject, and you’d also have to think that their attention was attracted to it by the role Twitter played in the recent street demonstrations in Iran. But Fabian Mohr, writing in Die Zeit (Twitter: The media revolution that is not one), does provide some thoughtful arguments about this recent micro-blogging craze.

Now, as you might expect he has been driven to take up his pen by a spate of recent “What’s it good for?” attack-articles, such as in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (by Bernd Graff; the title is pretty untranslateable – Tschilp, tschilp, bla, bla – and yes, part of the caption under that picture up-top of the two parrots cuddling asks “whether these two have rather more to say [i.e. that’s interesting than Twitter-tweeters]?”), and even in his own Die Zeit (by Jens Uehlecke: Stop with the chatter [already]!; Geschnatter basically = “chatter”). One rather perceptive point he makes is to point out the parallel between reactions to Twitter among many journalists (“highly hysterical”) and the reception that weblogs met with when they first came into prominence about five years ago (wasn’t it about then?).

Ultimately, though (and just as in the case of weblogs), these attacks on Twitter generally fall wide of the mark, mainly because they invest too much meaning into it. Take the objection against the banal sort of “tweets” for which the service has become infamous, like recounting what one is having for breakfast, for example: Mohr points out that, although it’s true that a “tweet” can potentially be accessed and read by anyone with a Twitter account, that usually is not the intention of the “tweeter.” Rather, such broadcasts are only meant for a close circle of friends for whom such banal-but-personal information might well have some sort of relevance. (Put another way: if the “tweets” do nothing for you – just unsubscribe!) He also finds that Twitter’s critics are giving it rather more credit than it deserves by terming it a new “medium” (as in “mass media”). It’s not; it’s rather a “platform,” meaning more-or-less simply another means for communications, and not one making any inherent claim to accuracy (or, indeed, to seriousness). Yes, inaccurate and downright false information is transmitted via Twitter all the time, but the same is true of e-mail or the telephone, but you don’t see these smart-alecky journalists attacking those.

Presumably what seems to be the internecine battle over Twitter within the cohort of Die Zeit contributors has come to some sort of settlement, along the lines of “Twitter is OK after all.” I say this because of today’s latest piece there on the subject (Twittering with filter and magnifying-glass), which abandons the pro-and-contra rhetoric to simply present fifteen illustrations of handy Twitter-related tools (whether within Twitter itself or related websites that have sprung up to act as Twitter accessories). Yes, the accompanying explanatory text at the bottom is in German, but you might want to click through this presentation nonetheless, because (if you’re into Twitter) you might well find something understandable (because it’s mostly illustrations) and useful.

And then, for lame comic relief, there is also this belated Twitter-satire piece (“Period, period, comma, dash”) in the Financial TImes Deutschland, no less. The “Twitter Revolution” has arrived, author Nils Kreimeier proclaims, but things won’t stop there. He predicts that the next regime to feel the wrath of a microblogging-armed population will be Cuba’s, but by then it will be all about something called “Worder,” which allows not 140-character but rather just one-word messages. Soon to come after that: “Smiler,” with which users communicate only by sending out to the Net one out of a wide variety of “smileys.” Yeah right: hilarious (:-\ speaking of “smileys”) . . . frankly, I’m positive I read the same sort of lame humor somewhere else in English, a while ago, but I just can’t remember exactly where.

(Oh yes – I get to do a plug! Remember that you can follow EuroSavant on Twitter here!)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.