The discontinuities of Twitter
by Ken Smith Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I realize that I use Twitter in part to take notes. There are many continuities in the notes--topics recur, interests, concerns, and obsessions unfold over time. But by the structure of the software, those continuities are not made clear. You'd have to remember which posts are related to each other, or dig to find these continuities. 

The software doesn't care about the connections that I care about. The software doesn't track the connections I'm making when I notice something and post it. The connections between old posts and the newest one.

The software encourages the intellectual structure that teachers see in unsophisticated college papers: "Here's something I want to say. Now here's another thing I noticed. This, too, is interesting." The structure of a list, while perfectly good for grocery shopping, is not a good enough tool for some kinds of thinking.* **

So I've been using Twitter to take notes, knowing that the interesting work of making connections between the notes is yet to be done.

And due to the design of the software, will probably never be done. The continuities will probably never be exposed, considered further, developed into something more substantial. That's my main complaint about Twitter. In its current structure, Twitter looks like it's good for note-taking, but it isn't. (Not that I disagree with other well-known criticisms of the tool.)

The idea of a tool for taking notes in a public place, that idea I like. The idea that the tool, by its structure, makes it unlikely that the notes will ever be assembled into something else, that is my complaint here.


*Yes, it's true, avant-garde novelists do fun things with lists, proving that lists are ways of thinking.

**You can tell that lists aren't a rich enough kind of organization if you ever group a list into categories. Doing so, you're asserting greater thought-links than a simple list provides. A grocery list that puts all the produce together, puts all the frozen foods together, puts all the dairy products together, is still a list, but it asserts more meaning, more pattern, than a list alone.