While I had originally intended to post about the New Media Literacies paper “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture,” I opened my computer and found Paul Levinson’s chapter on Twitter, from his book New New Media, thanks to the mass amounts of PDFs which I downloaded from my school library and have yet to read.
Although Levinson title’s the chapter “Twitter,” and indeed goes to great lengths in his exploration of Twitter, the chapter read more like an examination of what new media represents to society, largely in part to his discussion of Marshall McLuhan. On the second page of the chapter, Levinson states, “instant publication—whether of text, images, sounds or videos—is one of the hallmarks of new new media.” In our society, it would be hard to disagree, especially with Isaiah Mustafa and the team at Wieden + Kennedy cranking out Old Spice videos in record time. (More on that at Fast Company)
In regards to McLuhan, Levinson points out that much of his writing looks like what we see in today’s current twittersphere, with statements like “nobody ever made a grammatical error in a non-literate society” or “the content of any medium is another medium.” Self-contained statements such as these are popular on Twitter, as they give us a lot to think about in 140 characters. Yet, what McLuhan really said that addresses Twitter is his notion of media “effects” and the “tetrad.”
McLuhan designed the tetrad as a pedagogical tool, phrasing his laws as questions with which to consider any medium:
1. What does the medium enhance?
2. What does the medium make obsolete?
3. What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
4. What does the medium flip into when pushed to extremes?
- From Wikipedia
This notion connects to what Levinson asserts a few pages earlier:
“The automatic sending to Twitter (via applications or “apps”) of links to anything and everything on the Web … and the instantly subsequent, automatic relay of these tweets to Facebook and “meta” new new systems…constitute a self-perpetuating, not entirely planned, expanding network that has much in common with living organisms and evolutionary systems.”
Twitter is essentially aggregating all mediums and media into it, albeit through many other systems, (Bitly, Twitpic, etc). We see proof of this through the wide use of Twitter, thanks to it being the most convenient digital tool for both interpersonal and mass communication at the same time.
I highly recommend reading Levinson’s chapter, (and probably the whole book, though I myself have not yet read it), and giving thought to his ideas. He makes many strong assertions and I have only touched on a few of them here. You can download the chapter on Twitter free here.