The Increased Micronisation of Online Personae

Yesterday in my interview we were discussing “good” vs. “bad” user interface constraints. The “good” example I used was twitter.com. The bad was of course myspace…but fortunately (for you) I don’t have any more to say about that.

The main constraint of Twitter is the length of post: 140 characters. Not always, but often I find myself wanting to communicate a lot with those 140 characters, and rely on context to fill in the gaps. For example, “About to go on a date with three women!” For most, this is obviously a joke, but what was really going on?! Later I post a drunk/snarky missive about being in a room of 9 lesbians. More context that might clue you in that if a man says he’s on a date with lesbians, quotation marks really should be used around the word “date.”

But what about no context? Those twitters are going to be on my public website soon! What if my potential employer sees those and doesn’t get it? This is actually a constantly present social aspect of the web–people are fired for content on their personal blogs, long online arguments are had over an “in print” slight that would have never found traction spoken with such flippancy, etc.

And yet the artist in me is so intrigued by these necessarily short vignettes I can send out into the world whenever the mood strikes, and the narrative they create, and the gaps the reader must fill in with their own assumptions and experience. The scientist in me wants to collect data on how they fill in those gaps…what their reactions are to this small data set about someone they are (perhaps only vaguely) interested in.

The constraints and co-opted uses of Twitter deserve more attention, but I need to build a different blog for that in-depth a discussion. But no matter how it is used – as text-ambient or public conversation* – Twitter offers a novel interface and is a potentially disruptive technology that uses subtlety to achieve that disruption** …as opposed to brute force, as most do.***

Online personae and personal representation has been a big part of my work, and it sounded like there would be more serious work in that area if this position were to be actualized…and just the potential makes me very excited.

  • I mentioned to kevincmarvin that “I don’t mind ‘at’ twitters when they are to people from MY friends.” Meaning, it’s the cross-network, “@someone_I_don’t_know” messages that are annoying. This could be easily filtered: any @ message to someone not in my friends does not get published to me. Problem solved. Useful user-created feature of Twitter maintained.

** And I don’t mean one’s phone beeping all the time…However Twitter introduces the same attention issues as blogs, etc….attention is another big thing***

*** Again, need to keep jotting notes down and write something complete for the oft-forthcoming design blog. In fact, this question of subtle vs. brute force applies to a lot of different jurisdictions; surely a philosopher or sociologist has written about this…any suggestions?