Barry Stone, Birds and Street Light, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 2005, C-Print, 14 x 11 inches, Image via: Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery
“The price of information has not only gone into free fall in the last few years, it is still in free fall now, it will continue to fall long before it hits bottom, and when it does whole categories of currently lucrative businesses will be either transfigured unrecognizably or completely wiped out, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.” Clay Shirky. Help. The Price of Information Has Fallen and It Can’t Get Up. 1998
“[Twitter co-Founder Biz] Stone, speaks of Twitter's potentially being a new form of human communication, “like a flock of birds choreographed in flight.”” Will Leitch, New York Magazine. February 9, 2009
Twitter is the first manifestation of Shirky’s predictions of a communication industry so transformed it is completely unrecognizable. Of course, what’s interesting is that communication itself looks entirely different, not just the industry. Internet shorthand is almost unreadable if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Here’s an example.
RT @cshirky DoJ <3 RIAA: “~This administration’s choices for intellectual property matters are looking pretty grim.~” http://bit.ly/k7jm
This is a mix of links and abbreviations designed to credit people and share information. The longhand, for anyone who can’t read the above line translates to:
ReTweet http://www.twitter.com/cshirky. The Department of Justice Loves The Recording Industry Association of America. “~This administration’s choices for intellectual property matters are looking pretty grim.~” http://copyfight.corante.com/archives/2009/02/06/riaa_takes_over_doj.php
I won’t get into the details of twitter use any more than this; it’s pretty dull stuff even for those of us who like it. Will Leitch at New York Magazine however does hit on an interesting point as he goes through some of it.
Most individual Twitter pages resemble a poorly written blog. If you looked at mine, you'd see updates from a recent football game I attended, a joke about the inauguration, and an alert that a friend of mine was getting a tattoo. My Twitter page is lame. Most are. What happens collectively is what matters….
It's streamlining information. “It's another step toward the democratization of information,” [Twitter co-founder Evan] Williams says. “I've come to really believe that if you make it easier for people to share information, more good things happen.”
To be honest I find the metaphor of the flock of birds and collective happenings a little vague — distributing the work of flight is different than communicating — but that’s fine. The larger point to take home here is that online tools that make sharing easier tend to be most effective. And Anyone who’s used the Internet for any length of time will come to that conclusion too.