Saturday evening, sitting through previews at the 9:30 showing of Pirate Radio (not recommended, btw), I checked the Twitter stream and was struck by a strong Tweet from @jayrosen_nyu.
Rosen, for those of you who aren’t touched by his wide-reaching social graph, is a professor of journalism at NYU, as well as an early and active adopter of interactive and community-driven information platforms.
Rosen is a prototype for using Twitter: his streams are structured around a core idea, then aggregate disparate perspectives around the idea, ideally creating dialogue and engagement among his followers. He clearly believes that arguments should be out in the open, and that citing your sources and supporting your points are basic requirements of intelligent discourse.
In that vein, his tweet jumped out at me, at 9:30 at night, in my seat in the movie theater. (To make sense of this, reach the second Tweet in the graphic below first.)
A blanket statement, with no context in that tweet, to rebut people who make blanket statements, with no content or source. That’s ironic. And, that’s one of the challenges of managing the 140-character constraint of the Twitter protocol.
Now, if I’d been more active on Twitter during that Saturday after Thanksgiving, I would have seen that the Tweet that I was struck by was part of a thread that had begun at 11:30 that morning, with specific links to the sources of information that he was critiquing.
Rosen sent me a direct tweet to clear up my misperceptions. The first, at 10:30 that Saturday night, while I was working hard to stay awake during the movie, pointed me to the original link of the story that he was commenting on throughout the day.
The second came the next afternoon as was an elegant and detailed rebuttal to anyone who felt like he was being what Bill Simmon’s calls in The Book of Basketball a Grumpy Old Editor. (Note: Rosen, who I don’t know, is probably the same age as I am, if not a little younger.)
Click on the link in the direct message and you’ll got to Rosen’s Tumblr account, where he has aggregated a collection of examples of people referring to the great “information wants to be free” cabal with no specific sourcing.
What can you take away from this, besides the fact that I was ill-advisedly critical and firmly corrected? (I mean, it’s not like I was getting into any kind of intelligent debate here…I was making a point that had even less context that Rosen’s single tweet.)
First, the challenge of Twitter is maintaining the context of your Tweets when you are one of a multitude of voices flowing through assorted Twitter streams. It requires work and commitment of the type Rosen brings each day, and even then, you can be misunderstood, misquoted or mis-cited.
Second, a commitment to intellectual honesty can build stronger foundations of information and knowledge. Engagement with honesty creates more understanding.
And third, the level of confusion around the underlying media models that is discussed and debated among different intellectual camps is creating an incredible amount of content, which generates a high degree of traffic. That’s media, for certain.