Twitter Language Visualization Part 3: North America.
“In today’s globalized world, nationality, as the traditional definition of identity, is becoming increasingly irrelevant. What, therefore, still separates us?
Modern communications technology means that physical space is no longer a real barrier; online, we can speak directly with someone thousands of miles away, watch events in far-flung corners of the world as they unfold, and spread revolutions using only social networks. The Occupy movement is a prime example of this: its followers largely belong to the young, connected, globalized generation and the movement’s message has therefore transcended national boundaries to gain support across the globe.
What, therefore, still separates us? With national borders becoming increasingly fuzzy, one of the very few remaining barriers to an entirely globalized world is language. Language, as a shared heritage, connects us with strangers; and language, as an impenetrable barrier, separates us from the rest of the world. To learn a foreign language is to gain access into a new community, and gradually to improve, to feel the fog of confusion lift as you begin to understand what is going on around you, is one of the most rewarding experiences possible.
The role of language in the world has been brilliantly and very beautifully demonstrated by the artist and cartographer Eric Fischer. Using the Twitter API and language recognition software, Fischer has mapped the global use of languages on Twitter. This fascinating map paints a different picture to the standard global map: language boundaries are blurred, and more permeable than political boundaries. For instance, spots of Spanish-speaking pink leap across the US-Mexico border with an ease many people in the physical world dream of, demonstrating the strength of the Spanish language in the Southern states, especially Texas.”
“Fischer made English gray, and so a dull glow pervades the continent. A sprinkling of Spanish-tweeting pockets, are shown in pink, in states like Texas and Arizona, and the pinkness deepens south of the border. The Caribbean islands show up as a colorful hodgepodge of gray, pink, and purple (French). And notice the vein of purple along the Saint Lawrence River in Canada, denoting the French-tweeting Quebecois.”
For my Web 2.0 Observation, the individual I observed works in broadcast media as a sports editor. For purposes of anonymity, I’ll call him *Michael. He is a colleague of a friend of mine, and so I had the opportunity to observe him at my friend’s apartment in an informal setting. Michael works on an Apple MacBook and is the proud owner of a jailbroken iPhone 4—on which he has over 72 apps on his iPhone, (and over 100 on his laptop.) He enjoys keeping abreast of the technology scene, and all things Apple.
During the observation, Michael had roughly nine tabs open on his MacBook. He is planning a trip in the next couple of days, so he was checking out the week’s forecast on weather.com on one tab while nailing down the best route to his destination on Google maps on another tab.
Appleinsider.com is a favorite blog of his, so this is a tab that he likes to keep open while circuiting through other sites. While Michael was checking the weather and planning his route, he toggled back and forth to browse Appleinsider.com, because he was waiting for the release of a jailbreak update from an iPhone hacker. Next, Michael checked his Twitter account and toggled back and forth between Twitter, modmyi.com, and Appleinsider.com browsing all three for jailbreak updates, (modmyi.com is a blog run by a hacker.)
After Michael spent a significant amount of time checking for newly released information regarding the jailbreak update, he went on his Facebook account. Michael saw a post that another Facebook user had put up, and decided to share the post and add a comment of his own. After spending about three to five minutes on Facebook, Michael collapsed the tab and went back to searching for updates on Appleinsider.com.
Throughout the course of my observation, Michael engaged in a variety of interrelated genres and websites, but his primary interest and interaction revolved around the sites geared toward technology—specifically in which he could access information about the iPhone “jailbreak scene.” I was able to see how Michael interacted with three different websites—Twitter, modmyi.com and Appleinsider.com—in a circuit-like fashion purposed to obtain the information he was looking for.
Based on my observation, I would posit that Michael’s online interaction with the sites would be an example of a genre ecology. According to Clay Spinuzzi and Mark Zachry in, Genre Ecologies: An Open-system Approach to Understanding and Constructing Documenation, “it [genre ecology] is an interrelated group of genres such as artifact types and interpretive habits that have developed around the ecologies, used to jointly mediate the activities that allow people to accomplish complex objectives” (Spinuzzi and Zachry, 172).
Additionally, I would posit that the online constellation of Twitter, Appleinsider.com and modmyi.com Web 2.0 communities functioned as an open system type of genre ecology, because users and contributors were able to share content through a dynamic, interconnected discourse. As Spinuzzi and Zachry say of an open system, “The technology-in-use is not documented by a closed document set, it is documented by a perpetually open-ended, dynamic shifting and always unfinished ecology of resources encompassing a variety of media and domains” (Spinuzzi and Zachry, 170). Furthermore, “open systems recognize “that human interactions with complex technologies are inevitably mediated by dynamic and unpredictable clusters of communication artifacts and activities (cf. Suchan and Dulek, 1998)” (Spinuzzi and Zachry, 170-171).
A Today Show segment from January 1994 where they discuss this new fangled thing called the World Wode Web.
I had a revelation after overhearing a conversation that went like this:
Girl: Excuse me!
Librarian: Yes, how can I help you?
Girl: I have a question.
Girl: Umm, I forgot how to use the library. Is there someone that can help me?
Me: Maybe Nicolas Carr is right. Google is/has making/made us stupid…..