Culture has ever evolved, and ever it evolves. Temporal circumstances seem to fuel this constant evolution of culture. We saw scientific advancement fuel the Enlightenment, and we saw the Enlightenment fuel Romanticism. We saw segregation fuel the Harlem Renaissance, and we saw the Civil Rights movement fuel integration. We saw war fuel existentialism, and we saw existentialism fuel postmodernism. This summer we’ve been studying culture as it is fueled by New Media.

The creation of the computer was as revolutionary as the light bulb, the printing press, the pen and the cosmos. With its light-speed capabilities came an explosion of usable time that would have otherwise been wasted on calculating, page riffling, walking or talking. The computer also provided a new and infinitely faceted means of creativity. The creation of the World Wide Web then sparked a revolution of accessibility compounded upon speed and creativity. And with the conception of Web 2.0 came the polygamous marriage of speed, creativity and accessibility to society. Communication and expression evolved from speech and writing into an almost telepathic cross-culture of blogs, information sharing and social networking.

TwitterTwitter is a pedestal example of culture as it exists in the age of New Media. Twitter symbolizes our society and foreshadows the future meandering of its evolution. Sounds intriguing. But why Twitter?

Twitter is not the most popular Internet application by far, but it’s a meme that captures the essence of Internet culture. It exists to answer the question, “What are you doing?” Users update their status in 140 characters or less, enough to be submitted from a text-messaging cell phone. Obviously, a single update can’t reveal much about a person’s life like a normal blog entry would. But Twitter is not a blog. It’s a microblog. Blogs contain long and subjective entries that reveal an author’s own sense of self, whereas Twitter contains snippets of time that expose an author’s naked psyche. As Clive Thompson puts it, “Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.”[1]

The function of Twitter is to gain an awareness of the spontaneous collective society. This is beautifully apparent in Twittervision, which allows you to witness with your own eyes the spontaneous existence of Tweeters all over the world. This new mode of perspective signifies the pivotal change in our global culture, our “awareness” of society at large.

Twitter also exemplifies the concise and transient nature of Internet life. Let’s say a Tweeter wants to tweet a new poem. That poem would be constrained to a single line less than 140 characters including spaces and punctuation, and it would be doomed to fade into the depths of Twitter archives as new updates push it out of existence. The value of such a poem would exist not immortalized in the present but always in its original, fixed point in time, as a cloud of cherry blossom leaves would billow and disappear. As the present slips into the future, time forgets the poem. And indeed, time forgets much of what exists on the ever fluctuating Internet. All things good on the Internet exist not as diamonds but as exploding fireworks, both dazzling and doomed.

And so it is that we have fluttered into the Tweet Generation, tweeting among ourselves, unconcerned with time but flying forth always into the new.

1. Thompson, Clive. “Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense.” Wired Magazine. 26 June, 2007. <>. 08 July, 2007.