Tripping on Twitter by way of the Election in Iran

I spent the last hour or so following the #iranelection hastag on Twitter. It is really unbelievable how much stuff is streaming through on a second-by-second basis. I tried to lock in to the flow of information for a bit to see if I could start making a modicum of sense of what’s going on at this very moment In Iran. I can’t say I did necessarily, but that stems from the larger fact that I have only a very vague idea of what is happening in Iran. In fact, I will not pretend to any thing resembling analysis of that situation—such things are best left to people who are very much embedded in the experience and the history of that country.

Rather, I am tripped out by the fact that the very delivery and design of news is changing right before our eyes.  Cole Campelese said it at Faculty Academy, and he seems quite the prophet to me this evening, “Twitter will be where you get your breaking news and up to the minute reports, the blogs and networks may be where you look to make some sense of it.” [I am loosely paraphrasing here, I’m sure Cole will correct me for what he said was far more precise.]

So, as I said before, I locked in for a little bit and the experience was fascinating.  You have the emergence of survivalist/guerilla types that are giving folks tips for slowing down or defending against the Basij and Police, for example: “DEFENSE TIP: SPRAYPAINT GOVT VEHICLES WINDSCREENS, MIRRORS,” or  linking to recipes for making homemade smoke bombs, or even “burning tires obscure vision of aerial surveillance.”

Then there are the strident quotes for liberty and revolution, such as “I Prefer Liberty With Danger To Peace With Slavery,” or even this solid Kiergegaard quote, The tyrant dies and his rule is over; the martyr dies and his rule begins”—this seemingly in reference to the shooting of #Neda, whose horrifying death was captured on video, which was framing her as a martyr of the revolution. Seen clearly in tweets like this one: “It took just one bullet to kill Neda. It will take just one Neda to bring an end to Iranian tyranny.”

And then there is a whole strain of conflicted, guilt-ridden American tweets, like this one: “Do the brave Iranian freedom-fighters make you ashamed to be an American?” And another tweet linking the outbreak of violence, terror and uncertainty in Iran to September 11th: “After 9/11 the world said we are all Americans. Tonight we are all Iranians.”

And there is, of course, the immediate, essential information for people on the street in and around Tehran: “CONFIRMED Reports that Basij outside all embassies. DO NOT GO TO EMBASSIES #iranelection RT as much as possible”. The question of what is confirmed and not is fascinating to me, because there seems to be a whole other strain of people asking for confirmation. For example: “Are there *any* photos or videos of tanks? Please post. Otherwise doubt. Watch sources!”

There are also the trolls introducing porn links, which the community around the #iranelection hashtag quickly combats: “View your links before you retweet. We don’t need porn here! Take it seriously.” And then again, “@universalmusic @lordghost sending out updates with VERY GRAPHIC adult images using #iranelection”. And there is even a kid troll spewing hate speech against Iranians for kicks. Right next to that is a link to an article about the Canadian tech firm Psiphon Inc. that is working non-stop to introduce unfiltered internet connections into Iran, against the wishes of the Iranian government (which the Canadian government seems to support according to the article).

I really don’t know what to say about it all, the links to the 60 or so tweets I marked as favorites over the course of a half-hour are below, and what is striking to me as I write this is how the emergence of the Twitter syntax of short, declarative statements coupled with tinyurls and filtering mechanisms like RTs, @users, and #hastags made so much of this phenomenally succinct and streamlined mode of communication possible during such an event.

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5 Responses to Tripping on Twitter by way of the Election in Iran

  1. Have youtube, flickr and wikipedia become so passe they are being all but ignored in all of this? Or have they become the canvas with which tweets are being painted upon? I believe it is the latter, but their role is being largely ignored.

    There is an interesting analysis of this at Reason.

  2. Reverend says:

    What’s interesting to me Peter is that Twitter has become the Glue. I ultimately end up at all those sites, but through links from Twitter. It certainly doesn’t make them passe, it almost makes for mainlined, visually dynamic feed reader.

  3. I agree, twitter certainly works as the hub. The other sites are the canvas that the tweets paint on…watching a

    Not to detract from the gravity of the situation in Iran, but the events described in the tweets and the media used to accentuate / validate them parallel things such as the retelling of War Of The Worlds.

    Maybe passe was the wrong term…they are simply a given in the realm of storytelling on the web. Yet, the media itself can serve as standalone representations of the events.

  4. Steven Egan says:

    This reminds me of the hectic journalism and news rooms shown in movies and shows back before the internet. It also shows which stories are really interesting to the public.

  5. @Steven No doubt….I have a 7X7 tweet grid up and just watched the outing of alleged govt spies flow across and around each channel.

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