Monday, July 09, 2007
'I shared earlier today how good my lox bagel was this morning.'
This is Evan Williams, founder of Blogger and now of Twitter in an interview in Technology Review. I looked at Twitter a week or two ago and then stopped looking about 2 minutes later. It struck me as a vision of hell. It's so simple it's actually quite hard to describe, but, basically, people around the world log their activities and other people can subscribe and receive updates throughout the day of, for example, how good Williams's bagel was or that Pocketwookie is having a triple tall Americano before recovering his hard drive. In a further refinement Twittervision shows the messages appearing in real time on a map of the world.
It is the fetishisation of banal detail that I find so scary. How am I supposed to react to Pocketwookie's Americano? 'Oh, I like those' or, perhaps,'I prefer lattes'. And, more to the point, what does he/she get out of recording this her/his coffee preference? Certainly, I, like all bloggers, indulge in banality from time to time but only when I can add some spin or wit to it. These guys are just laying it out, flat as a pancake.
On reflection this is, I think, not scary at all but sad. It is all about recognition, about turning one's life into a story that others may read and, thereby, give one a glimpse of immortality. Twitters are a series of memorials to moments that would otherwise pass unmarked. Humans have always done this and it is always poignant - at least when it does not involve torturing, slaughtering or bullying others. Technology provides a debased, atomised version of the memorial, but it does not debase the impulse.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:29 am