Oct 212013
 

I remixed a 60 Minutes puff piece with one of the founders of Twitter so that it tells a story of open source bravery and genuine disruption. It’s part of my Postopias series. How it came to be and why I made it is below the jump.

I have resisted joining Twitter because I think privately owned communities are a terrible idea. Even if you can get over the few profiting from the labour of the many, they are naturally vulnerable to abuse — the bigger they get, the more pressure is there to change the original user agreements for easier commodification. I have no problem with social media per se, but to me the fact that you need to join Twitter to be part of that conversation would be like if the only place to get email address was Hotmail. But through my tweeting for various projects I also see how useful and interesting it is, so I’ve wanted to join as @nomediakings for a while. I told myself that if I wrote a utopic story of what I would like to see happen with Twitter, I’d give myself permission to join. (I already opt out entirely of a bunch of things for my political beliefs, so I sometimes use this “ethical offset” approach to avoid becoming a total monk.)

So I started to read about the people behind Twitter, and one of my sources was a 60 Minutes interview with Jack Dorsey from earlier this year. After watching it I decided against writing a prose story — I could use his revolutionary rhetoric buzzwords, his real-life open source roots and rebellious youth, and the interviewer’s fawning reactions to construct a semi-plausible alternate reality. You can see the original segment here, along with the web outtakes I also used.

To the interviewer, Dorsey must be a genius because he’s so successful, and the original segment attempts to build the case of his exceptionalism to explain the rise of Twitter to their viewers. Placing Dorsey and Twitter in context would have been messier and would have included txtmob and the other more radical models that inspired Twitter. I find him likeably similar to a lot of awkward geeks I know, and feel sorry for him when the interviewer criticizes his introvert tendencies — especially when he seems to agree with her. I just wish he did something more interesting with his power, and so I wrote a story where he acted like the hero that he’s presented as in the interview.

Thanks to Fanny Riguidel for sound help, and Paolo Pedercini, Miguel Sternberg, Mark Slutsky, Tate Young, Carol Borden, and Sean Lerner for feedback.

  One Response to “Aspirational Science Fiction”

  1. In real life, Twitter produces quite a lot of open source software, and they are the creators of some super important projects like Mesos, Storm, Bootstrap and Bower. Twitter has a large open source footprint.

    http://twitter.github.io/
    https://engineering.twitter.com/opensource/projects

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