Friday, March 04, 2011

Becoming 'resident' in twitter: acquiring the language

Earlier this week I was talking to Alan Cann (@ajcann) about digital skills for new academics. He pointed me in the direction of David White’s distinction between digital residents, who integrate social media with their personal and professional life, and digital visitors who go online to carry out specific, selected tasks and then log off again. To exemplify his point, Alan pointed out that I was resident in Facebook but a visitor in Twitter. It’s a good job he didn’t look at this blog, or he might have concluded that I had moved out.

But this made me think about my use of Twitter, which really has been only visitor-like, but has begun to migrate more towards the behaviour of a resident this week. One way I recognise this is the changing ways which I have begun to use the conventions of Twitter talk.

Twitter talk for aliens: unintelligible life signs

Before using Twitter, the timelines on a Twitter profile looked like gobbledygook to me. I could not make sense of what anyone was saying at all, or who they were saying it too. This is not the stance of a visitor, this is viewing Twitter as an alien discourse.

Twitter talk for tourists: recognising the road signs

I started my Twitter account (@ruthtweetpage) months ago, but didn’t use it, even though I began to understand the difference between updates, direct messages, hash tags to signal topic threads and @messages to indicate a user’s name. This was largely due to reading the work of danah boyd, Susan Herring and their colleagues. This is a crash course in Twitter talk for tourism purposes (you look from the outside but don’t join in, just like being on holiday and only being able to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’ in the native language.)

Twitter talk 101: updates, links and questions

I actually began to send a few tweets now and again. I knew how to post an update, even how to add a link shortened through a site like tinyurl. I made it as far as asking questions. But then I felt a bit put off, because it seemed like no one answered. I figured I had no friends on Twitter, or it was just a really dumb question I had asked. It felt a bit like being an undergraduate who was not really sure how to contribute to a discussion in a conference plenary session.

Twitter conversations: connecting with the @ symbol

And then I realised that if you want to see what people say back to you in Twitter, you have to click on the @mentions tab. This is where you will find the public replies people send you (as opposed to Direct Messages). And there were the answers to my questions – doh! And suddenly I felt very bad that I had not said thank you, so I posted some tweets doing just that. Then I realised that using the @username was a good way to demonstrate your network of connections and to get your own name circulated in the twitterverse. I’m starting to get a little more proficient in this now, to the point where I instinctively want to use my colleagues’ twitter names than their institutional email addresses.

Advanced Twitter: modifying Retweets and hashtags

I gave a paper last week on celebrity practice in Twitter to the School of Media where I work. One of the members of the audience (@Flygirltwo) asked me if I had searched for hashtags in my dataset, as this was a good way of promoting topics by making them searchable. I hadn’t and I realised that I haven’t started to do this yet. Clearly this is a step in Twitter literacy beyond my current level of fluency. Likewise, modifying Retweets (forwarded tweets). I know it is possible to add a comment to a Retweeted message by editing it, but can I work out how to do this? Not yet. If you could explain it to me, I would be very grateful. Then send me a tweet so I can practice and let you know that I’ve read your tweet talk.  And maybe I might move a little bit further towards residency in Twitter rather than being an occasional visitor.



Blogger peps mccrea said...

alien to visitor to resident metaphor really helpful. what would be the next stage? i'm thinking of when you begin to contribute meaningfully to the community you are resident in...

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interested to readAcademic your comments on Microblogging . I have tweeted you and would be happy invite you in to twitter. Welcome to Web 3.0 and the wonderful creative world of User Generated Content .
Stuart Hepburn
University Of The West Of Scotland .
Academic Blog at
Creativity Place

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have followed you on Twitter and sent a message.. Thanks for mentioning me in your Guardian HE Article . Welcome to the Web 3.0 world of User Generated Content.
Stuart Hepburn
School Of Creative & Cultural Industries ,
University Of The Qest Of Scotland

Academic Blog at
Creativity Place

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Ellen Smith said...

Micro blogging has gone far...
been on twitter for quite some time as well.. expecting more from you then.... Good luck!


7:14 AM  

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