Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ethical Proprioception from Twitter?

Clive Thompson writes in Wired magazine this week that Twitter can give people an ESP-like ability to know what their friends and community are up to. Read "Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates A Social Six Sense" here. With this knowledge, people can sense patterns in their community.

By the way, Twitter's tag line is the humorously simple, "What are you doing?"

In the article, Thompson uses this wonderful word: proprioception (Merriam-Webster defines it as the reception of stimuli produced within the organism). He predicts that Twitter technology will be embedded in many websites and applications. I wonder if we can develop not only a sixth sense but an ethical sense from Twitter community's social proprioception.

Here is an excerpt from the Wired article:

It's like proprioception, your body's ability to know where your limbs are. That subliminal sense of orientation is crucial for coordination: It keeps you from accidentally bumping into objects, and it makes possible amazing feats of balance and dexterity.

Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.

For example, when I meet Misha for lunch after not having seen her for a month, I already know the wireframe outline of her life: She was nervous about last week's big presentation, got stuck in a rare spring snowstorm, and became addicted to salt bagels. With Dodgeball, I never actually race out to meet a friend when they report their nearby location; I just note it as something to talk about the next time we meet.

It's almost like ESP, which can be incredibly useful when applied to your work life. You know who's overloaded — better not bug Amanda today — and who's on a roll. A buddy list isn't just a vehicle to chat with friends but a way to sense their presence. Are they available to talk? Have they been away? This awareness is crucial when colleagues are spread around the office, the country, or the world. Twitter substitutes for the glances and conversations we had before we became a nation of satellite employees.

1 comment:

Ned Hughes said...

I don't understand Twitter. It doesn't appeal to me the idea of having everyone I know knowing what I'm doing when. But the idea of seeing patterns in behavior through it fascinates me.