Friday, June 19, 2009

Taking the Twitter Plunge

I'm stilling planning to get to my "Friday's Flick" post later on today (probably a review of Kristy Anderson's Zora Neal Hurston: Jump at the Sun, but I just wanted to send out a quick note this morning about Twitter.

I had lunch with Marc Lamont Hill yesterday. Hill, an anthropologist based at Columbia University's Teachers College, did a very convincing job explaining the appeal of Twitter and its form of social community, a form predicated on pithy, punctuated (pseudo-intimate) interactions.

Hill is the kind of public intellectual who is always in demand. When he's not lecturing at a college or high school somewhere, he's giving as good as he gets on Cable TV, debating the likes of Fox's Bill O'Reilly on the issue of the day. I put him in a category with John Hartigan, Mark Anthony Neal, Imani Perry, Eric Klinenberg, and Melissa Harris-Lacewell. These are some of the academics who masterfully juggle rigorous investments in public intellectualism with everyday commitments to academic teaching and scholarly research. They all do it differently, but they all do it well.

And given how busy these folks are, I am shocked that any of them have time for Twitter. But they do. At least four of the five of them have Twitter accounts that can be followed. How is that possible?

I have already blogged about being dumbfounded by the entire Twitter phenomenon, especially given how much I can't even keep up with the new communicative technologies I already use. But Marc Hill swears by Twitter, so I checked out the Web site yesterday and started to consider taking the plunge. However, I just wanted to do a pre-Twitter test run first. So, after lunch yesterday, I tried to take note of the kinds of things I might conceivably Twitter. What I came up with is listed below.

As I feared, most of it seems completely banal and unimportant, which is part of Twitter's point (see the video link above for a kind of anthropological argument in support of these seemingly insignificant communiqu├ęs). But I am still tempted to join up, even if just to inundate myself with other people's Twitters, starting with the scholars I mentioned above.

If any Brainstorm readers are already tweeting, can you let me know what kind of stuff you send out? Who do you follow and why? Or let me know if joining Twitter is more like making a pact with the cyber-devil?

Thursday, 6/18
2:30 p.m.
At the bookstore, thumbing through a new ethnography of a summer basketball league in Philadelphia, _Black Men Can't Shoot._ To buy or not to buy?

3:50 p.m.
Just read MHL's critical review of Tavis Smiley's documentary, _The Stand._ How did I not even know the movie existed? I'm not that far out of the loop, am I?

8:10 p.m.
Finally watched the comedian Artie Lange's controversial guest spot on HBO's Joe Buck Live. I can see why EVERYBODY is talking about the Monday night performance. Surreally hilarious.

11:22 p.m.
Had to watch the Lange's profanity-strewn segment again. Just found out that The Howard Stern Show's Lange has supposedly been blacklisted from HBO sports.

Friday, 6/19
1:06 a.m.
I'm really enjoying the opening segment of Kristy Andersen's documentary about Zora Neale Hurston.

7:13 a.m.
Going through other people's Brainstorm blogs. I really enjoy reading these things. Particulary appreciate Gina's post Teaching and Tenure and Sara's discussion of pre-tenure motherhood. As usual, readers' comments run the gamut.

9 a.m.
About to blog on my current Twitter preoccupation. Marc Hill has me rethinking my aversion.


Sam Grace said...

For me, the point is not what banal junk you can think of to post (although sometimes that becomes bizarrely appealing), its about getting to have timely conversations with super smart people. Or, in my case, getting to watch timely conversations between super smart people. And sharing information thru ReTweeting (RT).

There are very very few people I work with here who find Twitter to be a useful addition to their lives. Some of them have tried it, most of them are more generally technophobic. Like other forms of social media, it's not useful until you've got a good network that suits your needs. But once you've done the work to identify who and what that might look like, I think it becomes, if not indispensable, at least super cool.


Jason T said...

From a professional perspective, if I were following you, I'd consider checking out the Brainstorm posts you mention. From a personal perspective, though — which is the main reason I use Twitter, and why my posts are locked, open only to personal contacts — even the most banal updates are a nice way of making sure old friends from afar are alive and relatively well. It sparks (off-Twitter) conversations that wouldn't have otherwise happened, and means that when I do see my friends, we can do more real conversation and less playing catch-up.

That said, it can indeed be a pain at times. I think most of your sample tweets here are over the 140 character limit, which means constantly trying to reword what was supposed to be a quick update. Perhaps it can be an exercise in conciseness for us talkative folks.

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