I wonder if Twitter’s main strength is the way it enables what I’m going to call “ambient collegiality”.
This idea is partially based on Leisa Reichelt’s notion of “ambient intimacy”:
Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible. Flickr lets me see what friends are eating for lunch, how they’ve redecorated their bedroom, their latest haircut. Twitter tells me when they’re hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight. (Reichelt 2007)
More recently, Guy Merchant has contested the view that Twitter’s function is only phatic and coined the phrase “ambient sociablity”:
Ambience seems to catch the sense of lightweight contact that typifies microblogging, and sociability leaves it open to both the level of friendship and the sort of exchanges that are transacted. (Merchant 2009)
In the context of my use of Twitter for professional networking, I like the idea of “ambient collegiality”: being able to know what my peers are reading, writing about, reflecting on in nearly-now, almost real-time. Sharing conference calls for papers, invitations for project funding, jobs, new bits of cool software, relevant news etc..
It’s a distributed senior common room . Without coffee.
Merchant, G. (2009). Ambient sociability. My Vedana. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2009/05/ambient-sociability.html
Reichelt, L. (2007). Ambient Intimacy. Disambiguity. Retrieved October 8 2009, from http://www.disambiguity.com/ambient-intimacy/