Twitter, Tumblr and microblogging

On: March 29, 2007
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About Anne Helmond
Anne Helmond is Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture and Program Director of the MA New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She is a member of the Digital Methods Initiative research collective where she focuses her research on the infrastructure of social media platforms and apps. Her research interests include digital methods, software studies, platform studies, app studies, infrastructure studies and web history.


The newest hype nowadays seems to be Twitter which allows you to share what you are doing with your friends every single second. Are you going to the mall? Is your cat sneezing? Update your Twitter page on the web, or by instant messaging, or send a text message from your phone. Your friends will receive this message on the web/IM or on their phone. This phenomenon has recently been named microblogging because your messages have to be short, 140 characters or less. This is of course caused by the restriction on text messaging which is around 140 characters. I am quite curious how this service became such a hype and so popular in such a short time. Hyves, the Dutch social networking site, already had a quite similar function with Wie, Wat, Waar? (Who, What, When?) which also allows you to share what you are doing and where on your site.

Twittervision allows you to follow Twitterers (?) live on a Google Map. The Map is updated every few seconds and shows messages from Taiwan, Argentina, Germany, anywhere. You don’t even have to scroll the map, it is dynamic and makes you feel like you are watching a movie.

I am actually lost for words when trying to grasp this phenomenon. I just don’t get it. Why would I want to share every single thing I do? Is it because I am not 16 anymore? If I want to contact my friends I can just call them or message them without using Twitter, right? I would feel like I have lost those last precious moments that I don’t have to tell people where I am, what I am doing and why. Nowadays I actually turn off my phone now and then to have some rest.
Another example of microblogging is Tumblr which is an online blogging service especially for micro content blogs. The company sees blogs as journals and tumblelogs as scrapbooks. This service makes a lot more sense to me. When we started this blog we decided we would mainly use it for essayistic posts and not for short link sharing posts. The most popular blogs are consistent in their content so a lot of people who want to share photos, links, videos or other small pieces of content have turned to tumblr for an additional microcontent blog. I agree with the coherency principle and that’s why I have been thinking about starting a separate photoblog lately. I often take pictures but don’t put them on my website very often because I use it to blog about my thesis.

Do we need separate microcontent blogs? Or are we just scattering ourselves even more and more over the web?

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