Twitter as a Cognitive Praxis in the Arab Spring

Twitter is an extremely fast-paced information sharing platform, one that today dictates the speed at which we receive news. It is now common to see a photo, video or quote sourced from Twitter in a news article – a paradigm that used to be completely reversed. Twitter has ultimately changed the arena by making analysis of trends in discussion so much easier. With hashtags, it is easy to see who is talking about what, granted that the user add a ‘#’ to the beginning of the phrase.  Simon Lindgren and Ragnar Lundstrom designed a case-study around the #WikiLeaks hashtag in order to discuss social order on Twitter. The authors asked if social order can be distinguished using this logic, or whether the use of common hashtags is purely coincidental.

Through their research, the authors discovered that twitter has not only been able to take public opinion and stabilize it, but that further it effectively creates a cognitive praxis. “Twitter discourse is a space where such processes of meaning-production take place” (Lindgren, Lundstrom) The authors argue that twitter takes the idea of a social event and creates it into a concise thought, constructed, built upon and molded by the participant. The digitization of this social event then spills over to more concrete media outlets and this is where the meaning-production takes place. Twitter can take an enormously complicated event like the Arab Spring was reduced to two short hashtags; #Jan25 and #Egypt were used millions of times to spread images, information and news regarding the Uprising.

Where does this intersect with meaning-production? Twitter allows the ability for not only concise ideas, but it also creates an unseen type of universal language. In the months leading up to, during and towards the end of the Arab Spring, #Jan25 and #Egypt were the most popular hashtags in the world – not just the Middle East and not just the United States. Think about the ability for information to now span the world and is easy to find, easy to identify. Twitter takes a social event and can construct it into a universally produced meaning, more concise and understandable than the event itself.

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