54 The medium is the twitter – redux

Posted on January 31, 2012 by



As one says in the US: “gimme a break, man”. I don’t know the technical term for that two inch window at the bottom left hand corner of the webinar window. What I know is that (a) I can at most see three words, and (b) I can’t correct the text, for it has no such feature: typos, sneezes, everything goes in – no edit nor exit. I called it “twitter”, because it looks like a twitter window – and the style of writing would be twitter. But maybe I’m wrong. You should have understood from the context.

Where you are wrong is where you state that I was damning a technology. I never do. I was damning an application – something quite different. This window “whatchamacallit” is wrong for a seminar.

Twitter may be perfect to inform the police that murder most foul has occurred, or warning your spouse that the baby needs changing or feeding:  better hurry home from the happy hour with friends! But you may not do the same while at the wheel or conducting a train – 15 people died because the engine driver in LA was texting and overlooked a stop signal.

What I said, and I quote: “When the medium is the twitter one does not create a conversation” – a seminar, as I’d indicated in the two preceding sentences, being a place for conversation, I’d even say the prime place for conversation – as opposed to social gossip[1]. So I was damning a “non-conversation” tool placed in a “conversation” setting.

Why are “conversations” important? Because that where much of the human creative process takes place.

We in the West are obsessed with individuality and fabulate that creativity is endogenous. Nothing of the sort: Creativity has (let’s say a good part of it, lest I be accused of being of the binary persuasion) of its origins in social interaction.

Check it for yourself. You “understand” yourself better as you explain your thoughts. As you talk to a person new ideas just seem to emerge – at the end you no longer know who “said it first”. What is reading a book, but a creative process with the (absent) author? As I sit alone in front of the monitor I imagine someone I’m talking to, and the choice of words and the line of argument I follow reflects this “external” image.

Newton said it all. When he said: “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants” he was not so much acknowledging a debt as he was describing a process.

A friend of mine from Canada has just written to me: “So many of the toys my grandchildren receive are electronic: they require nothing more than to be turned on so that they can move or race or speak or beep or flash or turnover or whatever.” They entertain, but do not interact. Except fortunately that the child instinctively endows them with a “soul”, and imagines them to “alive” – making up for the lack of it.

Supporting our social and creative process to me is central to a sustainable society. Alas, particularly in the West I see this drift toward “All men are an island”[2] – we are interacting in Brownian fashion, exchanging virtual pheromones[3], which is what twitters are. Social animals like ants and bees exchange such messages and thrive – but they do not evolve (or change, if you are, like me, of a less than whiggish disposition).

According to my SOED “intercourse” meant “social communication” in 1547; it referred to: “communion between man and the invisible” in 1561; it was only used for “sexual connection” in 1798. The two earlier meanings have become quite outdated in this prudish age, where double entendre are shunned. Yet the three meanings are interconnected; in fact the social antecedes the biological meaning and reveals the original understanding that social communication led to creation as much as “exchange” (which was the primieval meaning).

I have not exhausted the subject, but I have exhausted this blog.

The next blog will be: Is there truth in twitter? Where I take on, not just Jovan, but King Thamus of Egypt as well.

[1]           Social gossip has its uses as well. It may range from “reassurance” to recursive reporting on the “social pecking order”. We are extremely sensitive to power relations, and implicitly position ourselves to it – by joining friend or foe of another person.

[2]           I’ll write a blog soon on this subject.

[3]           A pheromone (from Greek φέρω phero “to bear” + hormone from Greek ὁρμή – “impetus”) is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual.[1] There are alarm pheromones, food trail pheromones, sex pheromones, and many others that affect behavior or physiology. Their use among insects has been particularly well documented. In addition, some vertebrates and plants communicate by using pheromones. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pheromone

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