Lovely post by Ken Hollings on the spectral “non-people” haunting twitter:
If you examine their profile a little more closely, these accounts usually have just 22 tweets (occasionally 20 or 21 but I have yet to see one with more than 22). They are usually worth examining, however, as that is where the strangeness really starts. Often the tweets take the form of words in unconnected strings (and I but have but when we but I never but) or selections of quotations from established names, but which have been put through some kind of weird syntactic blender (he need regarding knowledge, such as thirst for money increases previously while using buy it - laurence sterne) - or finally they form themselves into the kind of cryptic arrangement of images that Raudive would have instantly recognized as emanating from another world (organic mathematicians training it carefully).
I… have some thoughts as to their origin: one is that these ‘non people’ started out as being one of the millions of artificially generated followers which were originally intended to enhance the popularity of some corporate enterprise or media sensation. However, they have somehow broken free of their lonely non-existent crowd and are now wandering the Twitter-sphere in search of someone to follow and have fallen into your orbit - or it may be that they have somehow replicated themselves and it is the digital echo of their non-presence that has now decided to follow you. One aspect of their behaviour that supports this assumption is that a ‘non-person’ will sometimes attach itself to a conversation you are having with one of your real followers, as if they were somehow hovering on the edge of your exchange - shy but anxious to take part. Their contribution would, I suspect, turn out to be entirely unsettling if it were allowed to take place.
One thing is clear to me at this stage: just as the digital spectres that haunt architectural renderings of new buildings find themselves occupying a non-existent space that is barely contained within two dimensions, so these digital non-people that haunt Twitter are a new form of being that do not inhabit the same dimension as us. Do they have anything to say to us? That, I would suggest, is another matter for another time.
via Simon Sellers
It’s a cute story, but it illustrates a crucial point: surveillance culture is leaky. Primary measurements beget chains of reasoning and implication. Second and third order conclusions can be drawn by clever observers and unintended consequences are the order of the day. That’s how we end up with stories of Target outing pregnant teens to their parents through the ultra-empathetic medium of coupons.
On the Leakiness of Surveillance Culture, the Corporate Gaze, and What That Has To Do With the New Aesthetic, Quiet Babylon
Read it all.
In addition to volunteering to have their tweets analysed, participants were asked to take a personality test, which rated them from 1-5 for eight different traits, one of which was the “dark triad”. They looked at profile information, the number of tweets sent, re-tweets and replies, the user’s klout score and the words in people’s tweets.
Of the 2,927 people, around 41 users were certifiable psychopaths according to the personality test. Everyone else fell into a spectrum.
The results show that there are “a number of statistically significant correlations between an individual’s darker personality traits and their Twitter activity”, according to Florida Atlantic University’s Randell Wald. They also discovered links between users’ attitudes to privacy, their personality traits and their twitter use.
His own tweets were extremely boring; bland promotional links or seasonal announcements (‘Summer is coming. Quark Cola never tastes so good as at a backyard BBQ!’). Nevertheless, once posted, he watched the retweets and favourites amass. Often he visited the accounts of the retweeters, trying to establish what kind of person reposted the announcements of an impersonal soda drink corporation. But Twitter pages of individuals held a strange opacity of their own. A tiny mugshot, a list of tweets, and a personal network that you could sense but couldn’t see from the outside. Replies and retweets from other unknowable accounts. No context, no usable chronology. It was like having access to a stranger’s phonebook.
Pierce Gleeson in “Four Million Followers,” a perfect short story which calls to mind a question that interests me: how will fiction be written, how will the interior world of the human mind be conveyed, now that so many of its elements depend for their description on branded language, non-words with ephemeral meanings, temporarily-universal but easily-forgotten software conventions? How intelligible will any of what we experience be to those just a decade older or younger?
Love affairs and suicide-threats within the confines of streams on screens, annotated with @s and requiring familiarity with all these little accidents of technology: how can this be turned into literature? Twitter is unlikely to endure even as long as ham radio, but what can one say about a typical contemporary teenage without mentioning the performative passive-aggression of the so-called sub-tweet? Language is being de-genericized; many necessary phrases are proprietary (and ludicrous), but worse is that whole constellations of words and ideas fade from our sky nightly, and are replaced by newer, brighter arrays by morning.
Soon no computer will have a manual: all devices will be listening, waiting to be touched, eager to understand you as you are, responsive to your intuitively-expressed desires; and all novels will come with manuals explaining “key terms” and describing the relative synchronousness of this or that protocol, the trademarked terms of discarded products. While it’s only an acceleration of what has always been the case —after all, one must read about patronymics, footnotes about old customs, and so on in novels from the past— changes in degree can become changes in kind. Perhaps the novel won’t die from an absence of readers, but simply because who can write quickly enough? Readers will snicker at characters’ social networks as you might if you opened a book detailing a courtship over Friendster.
I recently posts some data from the Pew folks on Twitter use:
Perhaps most intriguing is the demographic gap: 25% of African-Americans and 19% of Hispanics use the service, compared with 9% of Non-Hispanic Whites. Perhaps linked to the use of entertainment and cultural…
Alexey lives in the Russian city of Tula (Population: 500,000), an industrial hub about 100 miles south of Moscow. The quality of Tula Cartridge Works’ Wolf Ammunition is renowned among gun nuts, but the city’s main claim to fame is that, in the 18th century, it was the site of Russia’s first factory manufacturing the traditional Russian tea urns called samovars. Tolstoy, Russia’s greatest contribution to literature (pre-Horse_ebooks, of course) is buried just a few miles outside of town.