Twitter Revolutions – shouting into cyberspace?
I don’t know how much ‘Twitter’, ‘Facebook’ and similar social media have contributed to the rebellions in the Middle East and North Africa.
A lot of people seem strangely worked up about assessing the impact of ‘social media’ in these conflicts; as if they actually don’t want to recognise that ‘social media’ may indeed have had a role.
Certainly, to my mind, images of crowds of young people running down streets, smart phones in hands, have promoted a sense of recognition not always immediate with ‘uprisings’ in far-away places. Jerky Youtube images in themselves also help bring home the conflicts with an immediacy not always felt now with more traditional, professional, televising.
One thing is for sure: there’s no going back; authoritarian regimes everywhere will have sat up and taken notice – although exactly what they can do about ‘Twitter Revolutions’ is a moot point
It was, however, another Twitter-related story that really brought home to me the impact and penetration of ‘microblogging’. The Independent newspaper published a guide to who rules the Twittersphere (or the UK part of it – the Brittersphere?).
I was expecting the ‘Twitter 100′, calculated using the famous ‘eigenvector centrality’ algorithm, to contain pretty much the ‘Usual Suspects’: self-obsessed celebrities, self-promoting comedians and media darlings. What I didn’t expect was the plethora of science-related writers – eleven in fact!
This number does include technology journalists who, obviously, do have an investment in keeping up with technology, but we also have top scientists like Richard Dawkins and Brian Cox (we are not worthy!). Plus there is the ‘zealot for evidence-based thinking’ that is Ben Goldacre (respect due) and editor of The New Scientist: Roger Highfield (subscription due).
How do they find the time?
Twitter it seems is ‘not yet evenly distributed: some fields, like technology and science have very large communities of fans; others, like literature or art, have more incipient communities’.
Literature, perhaps surprisingly (perhaps not) does seem to be most notable by its absence, but what’s with the science?
The answer seems to be that the knee-jerk rejoinder that the Twittersphere is simply a place where the deluded shout into cyberspace is err a knee-jerk reaction. Instead, it is being peopled by individuals who have something to say being ‘listened’ to by people who are really interested.
And a lot of those people have a genuine passion and enthusiasm for science; which is great. So, bloghazard is going to try harder. Our Twitter presence has been spasmodic, but we believe we have something to say about science that you will want to hear – you’re here now after all. So look out the Brittersphere – bloghazard is coming!