Angela A Thomas

Entries Tagged as 'twittering'

What are you doing? A seemingly innocuous question, but… think again.

September 13th, 2007 · No Comments


I’ve been studying with interest my 100+ friend’s status reports on facebook as they regularly change, and to a lesser extent my twitter followers responses to the question “What are you doing?“.

As most readers of this blog will know, I am fascinated with the way language constructs identity and the sorts of discourses that can be revealed about identity through a grammatical analysis of text.

This is easy to analyse with some accuracy in facebook status messages as they get fed into the news feed and changes pop in in a seperate window if you allow notifications and enable the pop-up through firefox extensions.

Chris Finke did a twitter analysis of the verbs people used to reveal what they were doing and discovered the following top 20 verbs.

1. going 8271
2. watching 5248
3. listening 4870
4. getting 4694
5. playing 4085
6. working 3634
7. trying 3599
8. reading 3269
9. waiting 2558
10. looking 2487
11. doing 2312
12. having 2215
13. being 2098
14. thinking 2072
15. wondering 1866
16. eating 1862
17. heading 1710
18. feeling 1705
19. making 1541
20. meeting 1452

What I am really interested in is any grammatical patterns I can find within groups that are common in defining their identity. Are the educators all using thinking verb? Are males all using action verbs? Are females using sensing and existential verbs? Do older users do this consciously as they have an identity management and reputation management system already carefully constructed? Do younger users think at all about how even their verb choices in their status constructs their identities in certain ways?

And this is not to mention the implicit communicative function of status messages, which would be more evident in twitter by a direct use of the @ symbol - but I see people in FB sending semi-coded, semi-public messages to each other through their status messages to create a blended kind of private/public dialogue.

And whilst twitter is poetic micro-fiction narrating the every day lives of your followers, the status message is more like an in joke, where threads of several messages relate to threads of others, and its like a cross-media narrative and puzzle to work out what all the relationships are.

Check back on your status messages and twitters and let me know - how are you constructing your individual or group identity, what processes are you using, do you have particular subsets of friends in mind you either explicitly or implicitly hope they engage with you.

One of the significant things for me is that people are learning how to do these practices within the community of practice. There is a seeming lack of “rules” to it, which provides scope and freedom for people to be innovative and playful with it. Precisely because it is an amusement, people don’t even necessarily use the words themed as the starter for the sentence “User is….”.

So… what are you doing?

Tags: twittering · twitter · facebook · semiotics · linguistics

On Facebook and Twitter: more from me and my new friends

August 2nd, 2007 · 1 Comment


On Facebook:

Here are two fantastic podcasts to listen to about Facebook:

Tama Leaver discusses the recent MySpace / Facebook class meme that has generated a lot of International media attention, on Australian radio

Robert Scoble (and Calacanis and Felder) debate the value of facebook, particularly for the business community and its potential for viral marketing

I am totally hooked on Facebook, well at least for now *laugh*. I think the chance to play asynchronous games of scrabble has a lot to do with it!! But there are a couple of key reasons I find it culturally intriguing:

1. I’m really interested in the way it seems to conflate all my different life groups together and what that might mean. In Second Life there has been some blurring of boundaries between work and play, but there are some pretty clean demarcations of space which construct different areas as one or the other. Facebook on the other hand is much more like one single space, and so everybody you invite in will kind of co-exist. Right now for example, I have family, colleagues, friends and strangers all seeing me interact within and around all these various groups. Now although I have quite an extensive social presence online with my blog, flickr, podcasts, slideshares and so on, I am still quite a private, reserved person in general. So to have people seeing a much wider picture of who I am - like seeing me joke around with my niece, or dedicate a soppy song to a guy I like - is somewhat confronting to my sense of public vs private persona.

Australia has been late to come to Facebook. FB only became international in September of last year (I think) and our Universities have been slow to adopt. Right now there are only a few faculty members in all of my University using it, and none of my immediate Education colleagues have it. I’ve asked some of my students if they have it and have been met by blank stares. So although I don’t really mind for now that all my friends see so many aspects of my identity, I suspect I might come to censor it down the road a bit if it becomes widely used amongst my students.

2. The whole “friending” thing has been theorised really well by others who write about MySpace, and some people have called it a performance of identity that is contrived and fake. It’s also similar to the whole linking on blogs thing - as if who you link to might make you somehow better perceived by others just by association. But Facebook feels a bit different because its a reciprocal thing, so people are only listed as my friends if they choose to be. I have to confess that when Howard Rheingold became my friend I was thrilled, because it opened up a dialogue and we’re now also friends in Second Life. But I am equally thrilled when somebody I don’t know so well becomes my friend because I feel as though I have been invited into their personal domain - the flip side of the concern I had in point 1! People I didn’t know very well before, I now feel a lot closer to. I am exchanging messages with blog friends whose blogs I (shamefully) barely comment on (Scoble and his friends talk about this phenomenon in the podcast I linked to above). I am playing scrabble with people I might only have exchanged 2 emails a year with before! (I get hundreds of emails a day and am terrible at keeping up). Perhaps this is a false sense of friendship or community or relationship because I am just projecting here, but for now I am all wide eyed about it all.

On Twitter:

Here are some great posts about twitter I have noticed in the past two days:

Chris Duke talks about the uniqueness of twitter, what makes it special to him, and further elaborates on ambi-synchronicity

Alja writes a detailed and fascinating blog post titled “What makes Twitters Tweet?”

Cogdog and Andy made some great comments here on my last post in case you haven’t seen them, about economy of words and the multiple ways that people use twitter.

Personally I can’t seem to quite get the right feel for twitter yet, and I think that is entirely because of my time zone. I’ve taken some time each working day from the office to have twitter running - at lunch or in the background while preparing lectures, and its been very active and noisy and would be GREAT if I wasn’t trying to work. But with the new semester and hundreds of students (well ok I have 200 students) and lectures and workshops and everything, I just haven’t had time to join in during the busy times. And in the evening when I do have some time to join in, nobody is there until quite late. I’ve really wanted to explore and enjoy and participate, so its meant staying up a lot later than usual, and I won’t be able to sustain that for very long :) I guess that means I need to expand my twittering network.

The other embarrassing thing that happened to me is that I added lots of people to “follow” (i.e. I see everything they say) - and started twittering back in response to the things they were saying because I wanted to join in… and then discovered that they hadn’t added me so they couldn’t see anything I said to them! So it was like I was chatting away to an empty space and… you know what they say when you start talking to yourself, right?

So the synchronous side of things isn’t quite working for me, but its still been amazing from the asynchronous perspective. I found out about the first four links above to podcasts and blog posts from twitter, for example.

And more on the economy of text - the 140 characters you are permitted to use allows people to really play with their language creatively to get their ideas across. This is not new - sms and texting “language” has been around, debated and discussed for some time now. But I have found that with phones extending the number of characters allowed (and adding email functionality to them) that the creativity of language has become less essential in recent times. I’ve found it very refreshing to see this being rediscovered now with twitter, and I really hope they do NOT extend the character limit. I’m so tempted to give my students an assignment in which they have to respond to an essay question in one tweet, so that they learn how to be succinct and clever with their language, instead of some of the long-winded drudgery I get handed up to me :)

OK, midnight scrabble beckons.

Tags: twittering · facebook · cyberculture

The Writing and Communication Process in Facebook and Twitter

July 31st, 2007 · 3 Comments

Thanks to cmduke, my twittering pal, I have now discovered the perfect word to describe the communicative event: ambi-synchronous.  My genre colleagues will love this :)

I’m still learning what I can and cannot say on twitter.  I love the economy of signs/text, I love the interaction, I am fascinated with the different identity styles being played out in progressive 140 character tweets over time.

Next stop: twittervision

And Facebook is still feeling like a space to play.  My niece makes family jokes to me on my wall. My cats (which haven’t even arrived yet into my rl home for another couple of weeks) already have their own catbooks and are friends with the cat belonging to Kate in the US.  Its all making me LAUGH a lot and because I am enjoying it I am getting into the spirit of it by adding all sorts of weird and wonderful applications to share.  I am receiving the most thoughtful fabulous virtual gifts from friends (who clearly know me well given the nature of the gifts), and generally discovering new layers to people’s identities - in turn bringing communities closer together.

Its difficult to find time to really play as much as I liked - I wanted to develop a gorgeous habitat for my adopted pet, but that means running about petting other people’s pets before the kharma returns in the form of munney.

Please, dear readers, be patient with the ramblings of a newbie here as I get into both and then analyse them to death :)

But those who are expert twitters, was it “wrong” or a bit too “out there” for me to report news of absolutely no interest to my followers?  Where do I go to get more followers? What is the art of the 140 character solicitation? All these questions and more….

Am beginning to collect links about facebook by bloggers, anybody recommend any?

Tags: new literacies · twittering · facebook · cyberculture · semiotics · linguistics