Ambient connections create more socially aware networks

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Twitter is a centerpiece to techi-discussions where everyone shakes in amazement that such a simple application could become so integral to people’s lives. It is the simplicity, content and medium that supports such phenomenal adoption. More specifically, the interfaces to Twitter are minimal – website, email, feeds, Twitter Tools (extensions to Twitter) and most importantly text messaging. The website supports initial account creation, management, historical archive and message broadcasting, but in truth, like every other website would require a user to show up to participate and benefit. Extending their interface to email offers the few people who have a computer but no mobile phone a way to engage, but it is the text messaging that lets Twitter reach down and touch you in your pocket. There is too much information and yet participating in Twitter only increases it. So, why are we experiencing such compulsion?

Twitter has been described as micro-blogging and it is not a terrible coin. Twitters are character limited training people to marshal life updates into pithy messages. If one made a valuation of a blog post that journals a person’s day-to-day activity, the value in any given twitter is at most proportionally as small. However, considered in the context of the same person’s daily twitters and an individual’s understanding is enhanced. Consider one person’s twitters in their twitter-network cocktail and the twitter-log takes on additional meaning, meaning only understood by the receiver. Throw into the mental mix that one person does not necessarily need to know another in order to follow them – supporting fantastical senses of potentially very distant individuals.

Blog-trolling a last weekend I remember running across Matt Hatem’s reflection on the social sixth sense. He actually ends up meeting a friend that he might not have otherwise through Twitter. Interestingly, Matt’s very real social connection enhances his relationship with Twitter. Regularly, Twitter is a simple way to keep up with his network virtually. He is left to construct what one buddy is up to based on what he knows of them and what the message said. In his example, though, Matt bridged the relationship into the real world, which is far richer and now forever part of how Matt understands Twitter – it connects him with people he knows – virtually and in the flesh.

Matt also points off to Clive Thompson’s Wired article How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense. Clive offers similar anecdotal support that small messages understood cumulatively have meaning, meaning that changes what we understand about the people we know. The fact that these messages show up on a mobile phone – a intimate device – offers urgency of interruption and often a visually simple rolling log of what is what in the network. The mobile phone has become an ambient device that creates more socially aware people, in some cases, actually getting them away from tiny keyboards and meeting up close enough to touch.