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Twitter is all talk and Digg democracy is dead but not buried

Monday, 15 December 2008 — by

DiggAny kind of democracy relies on there being some way of measuring the intent of the people. Digg offers this, Twitter doesn’t. So the very idea of Twitter being some kind of democracy makes zero sense…

Yes, Digg is a flawed kind of democracy. But as a system that offers democracy, Digg is no more flawed than democracy in the real world:

“Look no further than the utterly disastrous and truly shambolic elections in Zimbabwe for a recent case study. Democracy is at times a crude but hugely effective tool to leverage a political ideology while appropriately removing or diminishing the specter of there being any impropriety.”

TwitterMichael Garrity of The Huffington Post tries to paint a picture of Twitter being a Web2.0 tool for democracy. Frankly, there’s just no sense in the idea:

“Well, first and foremost, Twitter is not set up as a user hierarchy. Every user has the same 140 characters to express themselves as everyone else. This is not to say that there aren’t super-users of the service with considerable influence on the conversations.”

No democracy functions under the implicit use of one person repeating the same words or thoughts as someone else. No sense of tone, or intent, or even a group consensus will ever amount to anything, since to affect political change, you are required to vote — which is what happens on Digg, whereas Twitter has absolutely no compare.

So as quaint an idea as it is that Michael Garrity is proposing, it’s fatally flawed. And even if in some bizarre way someone could twist Twitter into some kind of keyword-based democracy, using keyword frequency as a measure of intent, what’s to stop someone — or some group of people, as is often the case with Digg — registering several Twitter accounts and just rigging the whole democratic process on Twitter, too?

I still get annoyed with all the right-on nonsense being spouted about Twitter — Twitter isn’t Jesus, guys! And I’m going to keep banging this drum until people sit up, pay attention and start looking at the tools they use for what they are.

As time marches on, information becomes more and more a weapon, one wielded with formidable and ferocious purpose in recent times. So we have to be mindful of how we use tools like Twitter, and social bookmarking services like Digg.

“I would argue that Digg has failed in its mission to democratize media specifically and ironically because the Orwellian nature of its democratic structure.”

And I would agree with Michael Garrity all the way. But what he’s talking about is, at this moment in time, almost indistinguishable from the real world democracy. Just look at the presidency of George Walker Bush as a case study in how to win a national election by any means.

As loathsome and treacherous a form of democracy Digg can be at times, Digg offers us a glimpse at a formula for democracy, if not a solution unto itself. As for Twitter, it offers nothing more than word noise…

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Ed Richardson → Tuesday, 16 December 2008 @ 12:35 BDT

I agree, but it’s an argument that will mostly fall on deaf ears. People, by their nature, will follow what they think they should be following and this will always be influenced by those around them, particularly in the masses.

Twitter has reached a popularity now that allows it to be called a mainstream media tool, with this comes a blind following, as with most modern democracies.

Digg involves users making decisions on their own behalf and therefore should be a more natural/true representation of peoples beliefs.

That is not say that Twitter can’t be used as a voice of truth, but it does depend on a) the user and b) the subject matter. What Twitter is better at is visible sharing of information from sources you are interested in on a fast feed basis, carefully ignoring irrelevant content as it flashes by.

Truly clear and unaffected thinking and democratic reasoning happens on very small scales everywhere on a daily basis, off the cuff comments amongst mostly groups that know each other and feel comfortable saying what they truly believe. This does happen on social media interfaces, but it’s already outweighed by a mass belief and it will sadly only continue to be minoritised further as Twitter and other tools continue to grow.

Thanks for another refreshingly honest blog post.

Sorry Comments are close. Quite possibly for a good reason. Share your thoughts on some of my other posts or contact me directly.

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