Andrea Jarrell pointed out an interesting article recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s a list of ten people to follow on Twitter, but it also includes some interesting discussion of what Twitter is and how you might use it. It’s geared toward academics — people who often live and interact in pages rather than sentences.
The piece includes this sentence:
With Twitter, no update can be longer than 140 characters, which, to give you a sense of that limit, is the precise length of this sentence.
It’s meant to be an example of how tough it might be to live in a 140-character box. My immediate response: that sentence is too long.
Later in the article, the list of people to follow comes along, and each one gets a name, a link, a sample Twitter update, and then between one and three paragraphs of description.
Again, I thought: too long. Just give me the list.
At first I thought this negative reaction to the article might have something to do with being corrupted by all this immediate-communication technology. I’ve been altered and can’t manage a sustained argument anymore. Fast food only, please. But I don’t think that’s true. (I know it’s not true. I write pieces that include sustained arguments and nuance for a living.)
Instead, I think it’s because, when I happened on the article, I was in burst-mode and wanted to grab information in bite-size chunks. However, since the article is not aimed at someone like me, but at a different kind of audience, there are certain conventions it must follow. It’s got to be sensitive to the reader.
The author of the piece is a Twitter user and presumably has similar sensibilities to other Twitter users. That is, shrt is gd. But, in essentially writing a travel piece, telling digital foreigners about a new land, the author admirably adopted the conventions and norms of his audience.
Interesting: In conveying the utility of Twitter, you’ve got to step completely out of its bounds.
P.S. Bet u want list. Here:
- @PRsarahevans — Sarah Evans, director of public relations at Elgin Community College
- @jayrosen_nyu — Jay Rosen, associate professor of journalism at New York University
- @hrheingold — Howard Rheingold, a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley
- @amandafrench — Amanda French, an assistant research scholar and digital-curriculum specialist at NYU
- @academicdave — David Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas
- @dancohen — Dan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University
- @paullev — Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University
- @mcleod — Scott McLeod, an associate professor at Iowa State University and director of the university’s Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education
- @mwesch — Michael L. Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University
- @presidentgee — Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University