Attention Consumption

Posted on: June 10, 2007

(I found that I had this post saved, wohoo I didn’t have to rewrite this one!)

So I am a bit late to the debate, but here is my critical analysis of Twitter. In case anyone is interested this is my Twitter link:

Twitter is a very interesting application, especially due to its architecture/design because it doubles as a status updater and a broadcast text messenger.

Twitter Pros:
For some situations, I think Twitter is an excellent application. For example, Twitter is a great tool during conferences because you can find out the location of your Twitter friends and meet them at interesting panels, for dinner, drinks, parties, ect. You can also get a glimpse into what your friends are thinking, which at conferences might spark great insights.

I also noticed that news sites have like Reuters have also started to
utilize Twitter for quick little headline updates. I also think this is
a great use of Twitter. You can sign up for whatever news services you
want and stay up do date even when you are traveling or away from your

Twitter is also an excellent tool for political campaigns, because you can know what candidates are doing on a daily basis. This adds an extra layer of information that was never available about candidates previously. You can see what it really means to “campaign”.

I think it would also be a great tool for activism or protests. Much like the use of text messaging during the Seattle protests, Twitter can help organize and direct people in a very quick and efficient way. It can also be used as a communication tool between action events to keep members up to date on activities being organized or conducted by the activist group. I am not sure if any activists groups are currently utilizing Twitter, if anyone knows of any cases please share them with me.

Twitter Cons:
The majority of the activity that does go occur on Twitter is daily status updates. “I just uploaded this song”, “Getting on a plane”, “Going to class”, ect. If we look at Twitter from a critical perspective, it is easy to see that the service is perpetuating the constant consumption of attention. People post to Twitter in a cycle of attention production and consumption. In a way, it just another way to get your “fix” of attention from you “friends”. This fix is important to us because we want to feel connected to other people. These connections become part of our identity, as well as our sense of status within our networks. Certainly, Twitter would not function if you could not “follow” other updates and also have others follow you. Thus, Twitter is just another medium – separate from social network sites like Facebook and IM – that reinforces the constant always-on connectedness that is so prevalent in our culture today. I must admit to feeling unhappy about new technologies ever increasing demand on our time and attention, as well as our  dependence on mediated technology for a constant sense of connectedness.

I think it is important to understand that our connections to other people have become commoditized by the social network sites, and in order to extract value from the users (aka us), the sites goal it to perpetuate the consumption of connections. So in a way, Twitter is reinforcing our consumption culture to the point that we are now consuming banalities. In fact, I think that social sites have created a fetishing of everyday banalities in order to keep the production-consumption machine going.


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Alla Zollers

I design products and services that just. make. sense.

When products make sense, customers are happy.

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