Social Media and Listening: Decoding the digital chatter

booksFor class today, we read through the following articles:

Gulliver’s article focused on how to use the Twitter forum and listed 10 “commandments” that she felt enhanced how historians and others could benefit from the Twitter experience. I was particularly swayed by #6: “Learn the hashtags for your subject field or topics of interest, and use them.”

This ‘commandment’ certainly ties into our subject today of ‘listening’ to social media and using this forum for research. Hashtags allow key words to be utilized by Twitterverse and its users can search for any open forum using a specific hashtag to get to it. I think I recently used #Thankfulthisholiday. If you put that hashtag into the search bar, you’ll be taken to a specific feed where you can see everyone’s tweet with that hashtag inserted into it.

In Jessica Clark’s article, she mentioned that Twitter would be donating its public archives to the Library of Congress. Hashtags will be a useful tool in deciphering and shifting through the billions of tweets that will eventually fill the archive. {I think Hotz stated in his article that there is something around 200 million tweets in a day.} I ponder on the possibility, that had we used hashtag in our letters and documents in the past, it would make for easy referencing. I know that transcribing my war letters and putting them into the Voyant-tools program has been helpful in finding the key words I needed to study a word use trend, but had Voyant-tools not been created, all of it would have to be done manually. YIKES! The hashtag was a great invention for modern researchers studying social media forums.

Yet, there is drawbacks to researching Twitterverse. I think Robert Lee Hotz expressed this problem in his article when he stated that Twitter is the “new battlefield for information warfare.” It concerned me to know that the Pentagon Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is throwing out $42 million to develop ‘counter-messaging’ technology. Social Media is a an open forum that could persuaded many users though advertisements and so forth. While I understand that the country guards itself against ‘persuasion campaigns,’ would not this ‘counter-messaging’ technology in some ways be similar to brain-washing techniques? And would future researchers be guaranteed that what they were studying in our social chatter be true voices, or something manipulated by governments?

Hotz ends his article by stating that Twitterverse at this time doesn’t actually represent a true cross section of society. But what I think needs to be understood about Twitter is this is a new social forum. Like any new technology, once users integrate it into their lives, it becomes a part of who they are. When the older generation fades away, and the generation using it now, continues to use as they get older, as well as their children, it will eventually represent society as a whole.


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