Can Twitter save the world?

October 24, 2009

If you think that tTwitter logoweets are the mindless outpourings of those with more time than sense then this one’s not for you. But if you’re curious about how social media is increasingly influencing key areas of public policy then read on.

Reuters and the Amplified network are bringing together users of Twitter to discuss the idea that social media has evolved to the point that it can help solve real world problems.

Twitter’s role in transmitting news has been demonstrated numerous times, with its role in the Mumbai bombings last year and June’s post-election protests in Iran just two examples. But can that power be harnessed to improve the news?

Twitter’s seemingly effortless ability to mobilise citizen concern has been illustrated by the #welovenhs tag used at the height of the debate in the US over universal health care provision and more recently by the overturning of the super-injunction banning the reporting of the Trafigura case. But can social media go further and help re-engage a jaded electorate with the political process?

We’ll be debating the potential for social media in these and other public policy areas in London on November 11th. If you’d like to come apply for tickets via eventbrite (you’ll need a Twitter id to register and be warned -  this is not a listening event but a highly participatory one.) If you’ve got a suggestion for a real world problem that could do with some help from social media then let us know via the comments below. To track the conversation about the event then follow the 1pound40 tag on Twitter. And we’ll be updating this post with more details including live coverage plans for those who want to contribute via social media.

Update: BBC Director of Global News Richard Sambrook (@sambrook) will act as the catalyst for the conversation on Twitter and News, and Conservative MP Nadine Dorries (@nadinedorries) will be doing likewise for Politics and Twitter (Commons business permitting).

Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour) who had hoped to come but can’t make it has left us with this challenge:

Comments

how about tackling ‘end of the line’ over fishing challenge?

I will signup but don’t want to lead, as might not be able to make it!

RT @GarethWong: w/e recommended watch, esp. Fish eaters: C4′s End of the Line: http://bit.ly/1r4E4r take away, eat small fishes NOT farmed fishes

 

Social media is fine – perfectly fine, often. My work often involves social media deployment and I’m pleased to see developments – albeit generally ragged ones – emerge in this field.

Social media can and sometimes do shed valuable light on problems that might otherwise remain relatively unpublicized; also, by uniting them, can help their participants come up with joint solutions and alternative responses to challenges which MSM either neglects or dismisses as un-monetizable.

There’s nothing wrong in principle with branded social media, either.

However, among various things I find spooky to the point of revulsion about Twitter are as follows:
a) its name leading off with the word “twit”
b) the unbearably bird-brained argot for its use, users and their communiqués
c) the atrociously short attention-span and gaudy smugness mirrored in what passes for communication within this specific branded medium
and
d) the overweening presumption that anything it accomplishes couldn’t be done by other means.

It’s as though Twitter sort of matters, a lot even, to some people – but it doesn’t really matter at all when you take it in perspective, given its twin burdens of twee terminology and premature numerological gloating.

Sheer force of numbers never made anything right (that being the first thing about forced collectivism that makes it so appallingly odious). Given case in point Twitter is no exception here.

Also, no social media ought ever to appropriate the issues their users choose to amplify. Twitter is kind of doing that, explicitly as well as by implication, despite being (even by digital standards) still in the fad stage. Which is more than a tad immodest of it, in my opinion.

Other than that, uh yeah, sure, it’s great. It exists. It’s got a stupid name but it’s in use. So far, so good. Some day soon, something else will come along to replace it.

So my question would be, how about a social media network that doesn’t immediately twit and thus render unserious its users by stigmatizing them with idiotic names, chronic shortage of breath and the “one billion flies can’t be wrong” argument – wouldn’t that be something?

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