A new Web 2.0 site, Twitter, combines instant messaging with social networking to produce something a bit different from the ordinary. Users on the site can update their status as often as they like, making it known to the world or to their friends. The “twitters” are displayed on a constantly updating social timeline.
Neat, but is it necessary? Perhaps that is the wrong question, since pretty much all Web 2.0 sites are unnecessary. The real question is: do we need this sort of mindless, addictive entertainment? Will it damage our attention spans to have new input thrown at us constantly–short, quick to read input that only leaves us waiting for the next twitter to come our way?
It would be one thing if this were a site featuring constantly updated articles or essays, but it is a site with lexias that are designed to be read and discarded. The reader is encouraged to endlessly await new deliveries without thought or reflection. Is this even reading?
Of course, Twitter isn’t asking you to read. It isn’t asking you to reflect deeply. Twitter aims, like most good media do, at transparency. You are invited to ignore the structure of the site, to ignore the way text comes to you. You are asked to focus solely on the text itself. It’s a shame too, because in this case, I think the delivery method is highly interesting.
I’m interested in this new phenomenon: the spectator Web. A recent article in the Guardian, which I’ll post on later, referred to how blogs have invited less creativity and more watching and waiting. The users of Web 2.0 have become a society of audience members, not performers or artists, the article implies. I wonder if this is true. If the Web 2.0 is supposed to be a reflection of society (as all good art is also supposed to be), then weren’t we already a society of spectators?
Maybe Web 2.0 apps like Twitter just amplify that, make it easier to watch and wait for something else to happen.