Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What I Learned from Twitter Today

"What the hell is up with Twitter? What is that all about?"

So said a friend recently as we were discussing social media and the academy. This person was no Luddite--she is a digital librarian at one of the preeminent universities in the Northwest. And I might have said the same thing six months ago. So let me answer by way of illustration with a few things I learned from various tweets (and retweets) today:

  1.  From HistoryLink, I learned that the Everett Public Library has podcasts devoted to Northwest History, including a historical musical about and by the Wobblies and the Everett Massacre. (The library also hosts a digital photo collection on the topic.)
  2. Dan Cohen tipped me off to a blog post by Mark Liberman which uses text mining to cast doubt on that old chestnut that the before the Civil War people spoke of the United States in plural ("these United States") and after the war they spoke of the United States in singular terms (the United States).
  3. Steven Lubar pointed me at this alarming article about a messy legal battle between a historian and big tobacco. Lubar also shared this fun article about how the Smithsonian tries to decide which artifacts of the digital revolution are worth collecting.
  4. I saw that Kevin Levin continues to slay vast legions of imaginary black Confederates at his righteous blog Civil War Memory.
  5. Suzanne Fischer shared this wonderful 1906 document from New Zealand recording recent carrier pigeon messaged delivered to Great Barrier Island. (She also had unkind words for the New York Times).
  6. I learned a lot about what various Twitter friends had for dinner, or thought about the news, or that their dog has fleas. But the odd thing is that I find myself caring about these things, sometimes, as people who I began following because they tweet interesting stuff become something more like friendly acquaintances. Thus the social of social media.

Type rest of the post here


Melissa said...

Its really great to find this articulated, thanks. I switched on the news last night, and it was so impersonal and doom and gloom - my feed is my real news, now, regarding the people I care about (and some I am getting to know better) and a great source of knowledge, professionally. Nice way of explaining twitter!

James Stripes said...

I'm only on Twitter every few weeks, it seems. But, it also seems that every time I tweet something regarding history, another museum or historical society starts following me. Social media shrinks the planet even as other social manifestations divide us.