Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran + Twitter

It's weird when there's a palpable shift in the way we disseminate and/or receive breaking news. I remember after 9/11, everyone I knew subscribed to CNN alerts. At that moment, I felt like the country (world?) was sharing in a common media shift. It felt like the first time when daily news wasn't fast enough.

During the past couple of days, I fee like the same thing is happening with Twitter. As the Iranian government has attempted to block outgoing information regarding the election via the traditional media, Twitter has become a (if not, the) primary way to get out messages. I'm usually embarrassed to admit I twitter. Mostly because its relevance is questionable to me. Outside of re-tweeting (RT, the act of broadcasting someone's tweet to gain a wider audience), I don't have that much of use for it yet. However, I see other people use it very effectively. 

Right now, if you search using the hash tag (a way of tracking what people are talking about RIGHT NOW) #iranelection, you'll get 100+ updates per minute.  Think about what a powerful shift that it is.  Everyone lifting up a single voice and rebroadcasting it to create a chorus that becomes hard to ignore. As a media source, it's both perfect (it instantly gets your message out, can get info out when other channels are blocked) and imperfect (100 tweets saying, "Everyone is attempting to switch to hash #iran9 in response Iran gov attempts to block #iranelection" creates an influx that forces editing in your head, especially when it's revealed to be false 5 minutes later. Plus, there's no editor or any way to verify accuracy. It's democratic in the sense that as long as you have access to a computer, you get send out any message you want and the online group decides to give it legs or not).

When it comes to Twitter, I'm neither pro nor con.  As someone who is interested in how the world changes and evolves, I just find Twitter a very interesting social experiment. But I do think this could be a turning point for the way we receive our media in the future.


sharon said...

It is really interesting, and compelling, although I wish I had a more direct link to people Tweeting from Iran, actual.

When I scroll through the hashtag list it's so confusing, and I gather/worry from what I'm looking at that much of what I see is coming from the States or elsewhere-not-Iran. Some of it's absolutely surreal - I saw a re-tweet from Alyssa Milano!

Yesterday it seemed more genuine, real, and immediate. Was that because it was a novelty? Is it less genuine as it gets filtered down through the endless masses of tweeters?

And more importantly, is the virtual support of people via the internet, retweets, "following", and all the rest actual support or an actual movement? Does it make a difference or an impact? These are *really* interesting ideas/questions.

I'm looking for the grains of truth in that massive pile.

The internet absolutely has changed everything about the way we get news. I remember that night on Sept 11 I was emailing everyone I knew since the phones were jammed and I couldn't call out - I didn't start my first blog until 2002/3 but that might have been even more bizarre, to blog about it. Just emailing in real time was surreal enough.

Joey Veltkamp said...

Yeah, as much as it help keeps the world aware of what's happening, the amount of disinformation is staggering. In the end, does that do more harm than good?

Susanna said...

wow-- this is really interesting. It seems that Twitter has taken on a life of its own. I wonder how many of these Tweeters are caught up in the fun of Twitter, and not so much invested in Iran?