Twitter And Scholarly Discourse

January 17, 2011

Roxie’s World has an outstanding post up concerning the role that twitter played at this big MLA (Modern Language Assembly?) humanities shindig that just happened in LA.

She takes a balanced view on the roles of twitter as a communication medium for scholars, but also expresses some concerns. For example, of the approximately 7000 tweets that were published about the meeting, about 3000 of them emanated from just ten people at the meeting. Just think about that for a moment.

Now, for my unbalanced view: I absolutely 100% refuse to write or read on twitter, and for reasons that are partially captured by Roxie’s blog post.

First, I believe that it–like Facebook–is deeply destructive of the mental operation of contemplation. The entire intrinsic structure of the medium is 100% oriented towards MORE, FASTER, BRIEFER, SUPERFICIALER communication. It is about collecting: friends, links, retweets, followers, hashtags, etc, and not about describing, explaining, or contemplating. It is about avoiding deep thought, not embracing it.

Second, it is about DOMINATING discourse, not diversifying it. Yeah, it might be a different set of people who are using it to dominate than who are using traditional modes of scholarly communication, but ten people at this meeting posted 300 fucken tweets each!?!? Jeezus fucke. It is about defining insiders and outsiders. (And no way were those poor compulsive twittering assholes even able to listen to the sessions they were at or genuinely participate in them: see my first concern above.)

Third, it is grossly destructive of the practice of constructing decent complete grammatical sentences in the English language (and, I’m sure, other languages that poor dumb twittering fuckes in other countries use). Why should I learn to read and write in some bizarre semaphoric bastardized illiterate form of English language just so that a bunch of assholes can whip out hundreds of least-common-denominator atomized communications as fast as possible like it’s some kind of massive throbbing cocke to smack other people in the face with? Get your fucken twitdicke out of my face: I’m not interested.

Fourth, it enables a form of herd behavior with masses of people rushing around like lunatics flogging their fucken hashtags and leaping off rhetorical cliffs that I find extremely distasteful. What’s the fucken hurry? Do I really need access to anyone’s thoughts but my own in real time?

Fifth, at the end of the day, it’s corporate shill shitte. Some massive corporation is leveraging off content that users provide them for free in order to make fucketonnes of money. No thanks.

20 Responses to “Twitter And Scholarly Discourse”

  1. Roxie Says:

    Thanks for the link, CPP, and the (self-described) unbalanced view. I think you’re a little harsh, but, hey, po-tay-toh, po-tah-toh. Ya probably oughta at least check out the Twitters, though, before you trash ’em too much.

    Oh, and I’ll get out my lit critical secret decoder ring and tell you that “MLA” stands for Modern Language Association.

  2. veganrampage Says:

    No, no, he’s a 100 percent right! Can’t state it too strongly.
    Also, many young kids are growing up flitting through 100 sites every 30 minutes on their computer and it fucks their brain good. Parents wonder why kids can’t concentrate after they’ve spent half their life in front of a screen FB’ing and video gaming and tweeting. Kids never learn to self soothe, have contemplative time, or dog forbid read for pleasure. We thought TV was bad.

    There was just a study on brain development, technology and kids, but I can’t remember where I saw it. My memory loss ain’t from tweeting though.

  3. Namnezia Says:

    “And no way were those poor compulsive twittering assholes even able to listen to the sessions they were at or genuinely participate in them”

    This is totally right – it just another form of disengagement. I mean the person tweeting misses the session, while the reader of the tweets gets some half-assed disjointed supposedly real-time description filtered by some distracted dude.

    Twitter is just for banter and amusement. Period. Nothing revolutionary.

  4. r Says:

    i think that new movie SUCKS but i refuse to see it. ill base my strong opinion of it and make tons of half-assed assumptions about it from on the 30 second commercials i half paid attention to while watching the football game.

    the grammar and spelling critique is the beste parte of the fucken rante.

    just like any tool, its only as good as the user using it.

  5. Al Says:

    I don’t use twitter

  6. PalMD Says:

    Interesting and valuable perspective, and I agree in many ways.

    However, there is an interesting (i think) phenomenon in developing very brief, telegraphic messages, whose purpose is different from lengthier discourse.

    It does help create connections, which as you point out can be exclusionary, but at the same time can bring people together collaboratively who would never normally meet.

  7. DH Says:

    This is absolutely true about twitter: It is about defining insiders and outsiders.

    The “clique” mentality of high school days gone by is alive and well on twitter.

  8. MonkeyPox Says:

    Only the losers say that.

  9. becca Says:

    First: This is like saying a Haiku cannot be a contemplative form of poetry because it is too short. Or ink drawings cannot be a contemplative form of painting because there are too few lines.

    Second fourth and fifth points: All true to a degree, but ditto blogging.

    Third: Granted; although a TRUE curmudgeon would reply “HA! You modern spoiled rotten bloggers with your unlimited disk space for text. In my day, we wrote abbreviations on the telegraph and we LIKED IT! Get offa my lawn!!!”

  10. Isis the Scientist Says:


  11. CoR Says:

    I wouldn’t lump Facebook into the same category as twitter. Facebook is supremely good for sharing pics and videos of the kids to friends and family that want to see the youngns crawl & stuff food on their face. Twitter is amusing.

    What forms of communication seem real to you–a telephone call, chat over coffee? Is brief communication over the internets that different than a circumscript phone call?

    I agree that this form of communication is 100% corporate and feeding the machine. Blog posts too, tho–they simply use different means of parsing the information.

  12. […] PhysioProf hates Twitter. I’m going to ignore the MLA-related aspects of the critique, but these two points deserve […]

  13. […] (partial) defense of Twitter. 18 01 2011 Comrade PhysioProf hates Twitter. I’m going to ignore the MLA-related aspects of the critique, but these two points deserve […]

  14. Historiann Says:

    Well said, CPP. But I’ll have to go see what Jonathan Rees says now, too.

    I find it weirdly compulsive that someone would send an average of 300 tweets from an academic meeting. Who does this? My bet is that they’re not the “insiders” in their field, however. The insiders/outsiders among the twittering crowd are probably NOT the MLA insiders/bigshots, who were of course busy networking, conducting interviews, and otherwise power-schmoozing. Perhaps some see Twittering as an alternative career-building strategy? (Maybe they compulsively need to show how plugged in they are in their field?)

    I disagree with becca that your criticisms of Twitter and fB could be applied to blogging across the board. Blogging is not undertaken through a single corporate portal, and bloggers are not bound to give up the kind of information that fB requires and encourages. Some blogs are commercial, and some blogs aren’t very informative or analytical. But others clearly are–so we can’t be quite as reductive with “blogging” as a genre of writing and presenting information as we can with Twitter and fB.

  15. El Picador Says:

    You got exactly one thing right. You are unbalanced.

  16. Mordecai Says:

    Not a new point, but how do you square the “bastardized english” point with the posting of phrases like “fucken twitdicke?” I quite enjoy your blog, but I’m considering writing a script that standardizes your spelling to make reading it more pleasant.

  17. […] signed him up for Twitter. PP wrote a very thoughtful post on the topic at his own blog entitled, “Twitter and Scholarly Discourse.” Therein, Comrade PhysioProf discusses a post at Roxie’s World on the use of Twitter at the […]

  18. OlderThanDirt Says:

    On the contrary, it was “fucken twitdicke” that made the post sublime. There is something about the Comrade’s spelling style that makes me hear his (her?) voice as a deep and husky growl that is perfect for curmudgeonly rants. I usually smile when I read the Comrade’s comments, but this one made me laugh out loud.

  19. Heidi Says:

    Like any tool, Twitter can be used well or used poorly. You can choose who to follow on Twitter, so you can choose to join with others who use it well and for sharing ideas and resources.

    Your argument is flawed because you don’t know that Twitter allows you to be selective. Used well, is about conversation and discovery. Yes, there are plenty of people who use Twitter to say nothing more significant than, “your a freak you would know. We coming to odu soon your friend hates me hahahaha” (yes, that’s real tweet). But you’d never see that kind of tweet unless you purposely followed someone with trivial posts.

    Think of Twitter like Grand Central Station. Everyone is going somewhere, doing something, and talking about it. Some are talking about breakfast. Some are talking about work. Some are goofing off. Some are studying. Connect with the conversations you want to hear and participate in, and avoid the rest. It’s that simple.

  20. BikeMonkey Says:

    How about Google +? Are you on that?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: