Twitter: a new dimension to watching tv

On: October 11, 2010
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About Mathijs Voordenberg
I’m Mathijs, a student New Media at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). In 2009 I finished my bachelor Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam with a thesis about the public sphere of Youtube. In 2009-2010 I worked as vice-president of the Amsterdam student union (ASVA), As vice-president I was responsible for the human resource, the promotion and a couple of projects among which the election of the teacher of the year at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (the Amsterdam university of applied science). Next to my study I work as freelance photographer and filmmaker.


A couple of day ago I as watching a dutch television show, ‘de wereld draait door’ (DWDD). I got distracted by a woman in the audience. She had a lowbrow presence and was talking all the time. I was not the only was who was distracted. On twitter a lot of tweets mentioned the woman, the ways she acted, the way she looked, the fact the she was talking all the time and whether or not the director would remove her from the show. The director even responded with, “I do what I can”. In the end of the program the woman turned out to be an famous host from a candid camera program. And the woman she played was one of her new characters to fool people.

I really enjoy it to follow the twitter discussions around tv shows, they add a new dimension. It’s like watching tv on a couch with your friend and discussing the things happening on tv. And I’m not the only one, there’s even a dutch website specially for tv tweets. Recently The New York Times blog published an article about the twitter traffic with the last Lost episode. According to statistics from Trendrr, on the day of the last episode, 437,613 tweets where about Lost.

It’s interesting to know why people twittering about tv programs. According to Akshay Java et al. the main user intentions to use Twitter is for daily chatter, conversations, sharing information and reporting news. Tv programs are a great subject for small talk but maybe theres more behind it. In her article ‘Why Pre-Adolescents Watch Television’ Emily Anne Smurthwaite conclude that watching tv give adolescents subjects to talk about, new potential friendships, and it helps youth to learn about their new group they’re being socialized into. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett also sees media as way for identity formation but according to him all media have the potential to form identity.

So beside the fact tv programs on twitter are good subjects for small talk, maybe it’s also a good way to form your identity and represent your identity. So by tweeting for example about the woman in the audience and the way we think about her tells us more about ourself than about the woman. When I tweet that I find her so lowbrow and that I want the director to remove her, I implicitly say that I’am not like her. By reflection on tv programs we also reflect and created our own online identity.

Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. ‘Adolescents’ Uses of Media for Self-Socialization’. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24, 519–533. 1995.
Java, A., Finin, T., Song, X., & Tseng, B. Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities. Procedings of the Joint 9th WEBKDD and 1st SNA-KDD Workshop 2007. 2007
Smurthwaite, Emily Anne. ‘Why Pre-Adolescents Watch Television’. 2004

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