Monday, November 24, 2014
November 24, 2014: 21st Century Thanks: Twitter
[For my annual Thanksgiving series, I thought I’d express my gratitude for some of the best of our 21st century digital age and what it has contributed to my work and life. I’d love to hear your thanks, for anything and everything, as well!]
On three things that the popular social media site does exceptionally well.
I’ve already written a post about one thing I think Twitter does very well: inform. I know all the complaints about navel-gazing and posts on people’s breakfasts and so on, and I’m sure it depends in large part on whom you follow; but in my case, I’m fortunate to follow an exceptional community of scholars, writers, artists, and activists, and I learn something interesting and meaningful (about the past, about the present, about works and artists I don’t yet know, and more) every time I’m there. It’s very much a chaotic but multi-vocal, haphazard but highly democratic classroom—I think Paulo Freire would approve.
I also mentioned community and connection in that prior post, but wanted to say a bit more about that side to Twitter. I have wonderful students and colleagues at Fitchburg State, and they represent one of many communities to which I’m very happy to belong. But the truth is that much of academic and scholarly work is solitary and isolating, entails an individual sitting with his or her writing and texts, thoughts and questions. Nothing is going to change those elements to the work, but I have found that Twitter’s virtual but very definite community can complement them—allowing me to share works and works in progress, to hear and read about those of colleagues, to connect with peers who are themselves writing and working, and just in every sense to be feel that I am not alone in what I’m doing and struggling with and hoping for.
Our 21st century struggles go well beyond scholarly endeavors, of course, and Twitter has also proven pretty impressive at responding to them. Perhaps the most famous cases, ones to which my cousin John Scott-Railton has contributed impressively, are various events related to the Arab Spring: the riots in Egypt, elections in Iran, and so on. But here in America, I found Twitter immeasurably helpful and meaningful in response to the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson—in covering the protests and police responses in the immediate aftermath, in sharing the stories and voices of a thread like #BlackLivesMatter, and just in bringing multiple communities (on the ground and elsewhere, activist and political, African American and other allies, and so on) together. In that case, as in every one, Twitter and the digital cannot take the place of other realities and stories—but they can and do contribute to those realities and stories, significantly and potently. One more reason to be thankful for their 21st century existence!
Next thanks tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Other AmericanThanks you’d share?