Twitter: Media have Social and Political Implications

06 Dec

We're taking this brief hiatus to catch up on our posts from previous #K12Media chats. This post, written by Ms. Keats, reflects on our chat about Key Concept 6.

On October 31, we discussed the layers of social and political meaning found in twitter. As a newer medium, Twitter is both hailed and derided—just as other technologies and media have been in the past. What is so intriguing about Twitter is its flexibility; users are determining content, dialogues and networks are created. The social and political nature of Twitter becomes a plurality of meaning in ways that older, more traditional media forms can not be.

In developing this week’s topic, we wanted to explore whether or not the way we interact has shifted. Many noted how fluidly our students will incorporate twitter into their socializing. Twitter has connected groups of young people in ways that allow for a more global range of interactions—it allows people to find others that share interests. The #K12Media chat itself is a reflection of this practice. Teachers and mediaphiles can gather via Twitter and discuss these topics in ways that go beyond being in the same school, same school board or district, or even the same part of the world. Twitter reflects McCluhan’s concept of the Global Village—making large physical distances diminish if you know the right hashtag. It allows a sharing of resources and collaboration in a way that is simple and immediate.  @ms_keats noted how students seem to use new technology and media naturally, as extensions of their other activities. @mediasee suggested that they are using their texting to connect to others through this new medium.

@Steph_SMac noted that because Twitter is still new, its full potential and audiences are yet to be developed, especially in creating access to ideas and information. @Michelle_Horst believes that indeed how we are interacting using Twitter is changing the dynamic of our lives, especially because it is an open forum of ideas that is accessible to all, whether one is an expert on a subject or not.

@msolomonteacher and @ms_keats have been discussing Twitter in connection to Noam Chomsky and Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts that Twitter’s impact is a superficial one.  Gladwell in his New Yorker article, discusses Twitter’s usefulness for particular types of connections, but he believes the connections Twitter is good at making are still loose-ties or weaker connections than face-to-face. He believes in the usefulness of weak ties as a means to gather new information and ideas—@mediasee noted during the discussion that the #K12Media discussions are living the social, and perhaps the political within the conversations. @Steph_SMac noted that perhaps a greater amount of time may change the perspectives of those who are reluctant to see its impact. @ms_keats would agree with seeing Twitter as a way to generate new ideas—one of the many strengths in our #K12Media chats is the voices that gather on Monday evenings come from a variety of perspectives and experiences; it is their enthusiasm and willingness to share that is developing the chat into a unique and useful practice. 

@ms_keats asked if people who do not have access to Twitter risk becoming media “have-nots”, @Michelle_Horst believes that people access a variety of forms of media according to their needs at a particular time and @mediasee responded that access to technologies is always uneven and can create shifts in dynamics.  @msolomonteacher pointed out Twitter’s usefulness is anticipating patterns like the spread of the flu, so layers of information can be accessed and gathered that may transcend other forms of news gathering.  Because it is a form of disseminating information, @mediasee asked who has the right to police Twitter; @msolomonteacher noted that all Twitter chats are stored in the Library of Congress, @Steph_SMac mentioned that Twitter could become a private space, but that would limit audience and freedom of expression—many noted the important of developing an awareness about privacy and a cyber footprint when using social media. @TaniaSterling agrees that secure sites are not as secure as previously believed and it’s better to think public.  

The discussion shifted from the social and educational aspects of Twitter to its political impact. @msolomonteacher asked how Twitter has influenced politics and recent elections. @mediasee believes that it has mobilized traditional non-voters, especially youth. @ms_keats mentioned that the most recent federal election saw Twitter being used to leak results from one closed riding, with traditional media outlets being banned from broadcasting, discussing and potentially influencing voting in polling stations still open in later time-zones. @msolomonteacher believes she began to recognize Twitter’s political impact after the aftermath of the elections in Iran and the Green movement.  @msolomonteacher wondered if Twitter will be as monumental as television in the candidacy of future political leaders. @mediasee noted that tweets can be ghost-written.

@mediasee noted that Twitter’s power lies in its flexibility, it adapts to a personal and epic scale, as the user feels is necessary.  This is one of the most exciting aspects of Twitter; whether it be social, political, educational, or promotional purposes, the control that the user has in creating a space for the expression and collaboration of ideas creates a world of exciting possibilities.


Gladwell, Malcolm. "Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be Tweeted." The New Yorker4 Oct. 2010.

Grossman, Lev. "Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement." Time. 17 Jun 2009.

Jurgenson, Nathan. "Why Chomsky is Wrong About Twitter." Salon. 23 Oct. 2011.

Poniewozik, James. "Iranians Protest Election, Tweeps Protest CNN." Time. 15 Jun 2009.

Southeastern Louisiana University. "Twitter Used to Predict Flu Outbreaks." Science Daily. 28 Sep 2010.

Talaga, Tanya and Fong, Petti. "Social Media Users Flout Election Reporting Laws.The Toronto Star. 2 May 2011.


Image by: Chinen Keiya