Tuesday, October 18, 2011

History in the Making - One Tweet at a Time

In this post I am not discussing the merits of Occupy Wall Street, I am merely, as a techie, thinking about and commenting on certain elements of the the back-story or subtext associated with the events that relate to people's usage of the Internet.

Reuters.com reports that the Occupy Wall Street movement began with blog post with this Twitter hashtag: #OccupyWallStreet.

The are a number of interesting elements here:

Velocity: From zero to global movement in less than ninety days. Makes you think of synchronicity, multiple discovery, collective unconscious, collective consciousness, vox popoli and  zeitgeist,  and some kind of whole earth resonance. How long does it take to start a world movement? It used to take years, decades. Now it's down to days. Will the length of time it takes to get people off their butts become even shorter?

Singularity: It started with one person. Or perhaps a tiny group. This is so different from voting. In voting you say "Each vote counts!" But ultimately each vote is just a statistic. This is much more like the lottery. Guess a number. Guess a hashtag. The lucky winner gets global recognition. Except with the lottery one person gets everything, while the results of the successful hashtag are shared. And unlike the vote or lottery, there are no losers here. Anyone who wants "in" is a winner.

Anonymity: The person who created the hashtag is not a famous person. The hashtag was not written by a Thomas Jefferson or Rupert Murdoch - a person normally associated with the creation of events or news. The creator was just a normal human being in some random place. The creation of the Tweet may have even been somewhat of a random event in the creator's lives.

Openness: We know the history of the event - right down to the millisecond of inception. All out in the open - readily available to anyone. Nothing occurred in hidden rooms. No back-room deals. It's all visible, transparent.

Documented: We don't need no historians. No historian was needed to research the event. The events are self-documenting. The role historian as a recorder of the events is a sunset industry. The role of the future historian (apart from mundane archiving) is only relevant as that of a pundit or commentator.

Big picture: There will be more events like this. Some you will like and some you will not like. Your choice.

Link via Techmeme:



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