Right on, Twitter!

Several high-profile celebrities have begun using Twitter, most notably (here in the UK at least) Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross. They discussed it recently on Ross’ chat show, giving it as much publicity as it has ever had I suspect.

Yet I sense a growing unease at the celebrity use of Twitter by those that use it. I think it stems from a tension between its primary function as a place for two-way, open communication and the tendency for celebs, followed by thousands, to broadcast rather than discuss.

This illustrates a number of issues related to the broader issues of social software. Aside from the kinds of affection that tools such as Twitter create, it points to the ideal of a democratisation in use, the notion that no one individual should be above its rules and conventions when part of its network. Naturally some users will be more productive, perhaps even more useful in their contributions, than others. But rather than the top-down dissemination model, Twitter users appear to favour – at least in my non-scientific observations – the creation of a community in which discussion is privileged. And that means celebs are as welcome as anyone, as long as they get involved in two way discussions or it pay lip-service: just don’t spam its users with news of your latest product.

Some celebs, including the self-confessed technophile Fry, have immersed themselves thoroughly into the Twitterverse. His guidelines to Twitter are a lesson for all those using Twitter, celebs and non-celebs alike. What’s more, his conduct on Twitter tells us he puts his money where his mouth is.

This example of Twitter and celebrity illustrates a principle which many of those interested in the uses of social software hold dear: the renegotiation of the dynamic between users and dominant traditional power structures, and a desire to move towards a self-sustaining democracy which invites a plurality of users and ideas.

Right on, Twitter!

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