an alternate view of twitter

I started using Twitter over the last few weeks, well behind much of the rest of the world.

That’s ok: despite having a reputation as a bit of a geek, I’m pretty careful about what technologies I adopt, and what I do with them. I’m very big on understanding the guts of the machine, which is what I did from the mid-90s up until the early 2000s. I’m not so big on the always multiplying, always tempting trends of technology.

I played with Twitter a couple of years ago and dismissed it. I didn’t see the point.

It’s now become a place where I do exactly one thing, and that is – point to other things. I know I’ve told this story before, but the Museum of Modern Art put out a gorgeous set of books in the 1980s, reprinting all the work of turn of the century photographer Eugene Atget. Atget’s stuff was (and is) thrilling to me, and in the intro to one of the books, photography critic John Szarkowski made a point that has stuck with me ever since. Szarkowski imagined an ‘art’ that consisted entirely of pointing to things.

It would be simple and mysterious, this art, as it invited the viewer to look within non-existent, but for the moment real, boundaries, and see something new. That’s what Atget did way back when, and I think it’s what Twitter can do, after a fashion, today.

So once I started to think about Twitter in this way, as a pointer, its use became obvious and pleasurable. I keep the number of feeds I follow way down – around 10 at the moment – and don’t do anything to solicit followers. I have no idea how people ‘following’ hundreds of feeds can glean much useful from them, and I’m always looking to purge, to improve the signal to noise ratio.



One thought on “an alternate view of twitter

  1. This is my problem with Twitter: For it to be useful, you have to follow a lot of stuff. And if you follow a lot of stuff, you have to give it a lot of time. And yet, the more time you give Twitter, the less you get from it.

    I understand and appreciate Twitter’s “pointer” function. But so much of what is pointed-to is either redundant or irrelevant.

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