Monday, October 13, 2008

Twitter and the election

I've been digging into this book for one of my classes, and I think I'd recommend it to anyone concerned with the state of journalism (which I assume, since you're reading political blogs, that you are).

In any case, as I was winding up the 150 or so pages I had to finish today, I got to a mention of the "social production of journalism."

So far, McChesney hasn't mentioned Twitter, (the book is from this year) but I'm going to.

I've mentioned before, I think, that I've been sucked into live-Twittering the debates. I got addicted to reading live Twitter feeds during the DNC, when I was all over the place and rarely at home in front of a television. My first two experiences live-Twittering myself were at Karthika's, in front of her TV, with the computer open in front of us, giving us two levels of social production: the interpersonal, with the two of us discussing in real time, face to face, as the debates went on, and then of course the interaction with my Twitter-buddies (mostly bloggers, a few real life friends, and even some comics industry folk that I follow because of my other gigs covering comics for Newsarama and Bust).

Twitter runs a feed now specifically for the election, with hot political topics across the top of your home screen any time you go to the Twitter page. I've gotten some news from this--I wondered why the Flyers were a hot political topic on Saturday, so I clicked the link to find out that Sarah Palin got booed at a Flyers game. (Which begs the question, why did she think that Philly would be a good city to drop a puck at? Not only are we overwhelmingly Democrats here, but we boo at anything. Really.)

But more importantly, I get a lot of my news from my Twitter buddies. People will post a link along with a short synopsis of the story they're linking, and I can check it out. I found out about my bank's buyout through Twitter, found out that the bailout bill passed the House through Twitter, and many other things.

The people I choose to follow on Twitter are a self-selected group. Like I mentioned, it's mainly bloggers, a few real-life friends, and comics industry folk. They are to a person liberal, though some are to the right of me and some to the left (if that's possible). They are smarter than the average bear--I don't hang out with dumb folks. Yet not all of them are journalists or even journalism students. They are artists, fiction writers, editors, photographers, and students of diverse subjects. They are scattered across the country (and a few outside of it).

What they have in common is a tendency to use Twitter to communicate not only personal details, but larger issues. And with most of them, we communicate back and forth. We share blog posts that we've written and articles that others have written. We provide support for each other when we're having a bad day, and often a Twitter post will lead to me emailing or texting or even calling to see what's up with a friend.

But most importantly, as I've noted, the use of Twitter to socially construct media is the primary interest. Our discussions during live-Twittering the debates shape our views and contribute to what we write. It's a community not in the sense of geography, but in the sense of like minds coming together. Not all of the people that I follow know each other, but I'll retweet a point made by someone the others aren't following, and they'll retweet me. We pass information along, rippling outwards, and with the hash tags feature you can make sure your political posts are encompassed into the Twitter timeline.

I get new followers with each liveTwitter debate.

Last Thursday I started trying to fact-check the candidates in real time. It's hard for just one person to do, but imagine if we'd organized that sooner? If each of us were trying to fact-check one statement, to pull up documentation to prove it true or false, and tossed that into the mainstream?

I have plans to be in New York for a friend's art opening/debate watch party on Wednesday, but you can bet I'll have the Crackberry out and twittering.

I don't know if this is exactly what McChesney was meaning by social construction of journalism, but it comes close, in my mind. Because though it starts out in our little echo chamber, it spreads outward, gets pulled into the main stream of data, and with a little help...who knows?

Any of you on Twitter? Talk to me. Follow me. Join my experiment and help live-fact-check the debate. Or just listen to me rant occasionally about Vikings, back pain, family, and Sarah Palin.