Put Yourself to the Test: with Twitter, 24/7 (23/40)March 15, 2007 at 7:48 am | Posted in Digital Culture, Lent, Tagging, Web 2.0 | 8 Comments
Tags: Control, Postmodernism, Twitter
Thank God the twitter craze, which has already found its antithesis in the Twitter hater, has not yet made it to (non-English speaking) European shores – or if it has, I am blissfully unaware of it. It is another more or less Web 2.0 social platform, describing itself in its own words as
A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM, or right here on the web!
Today I signed up to see what the fuss was all about, and tell Twitter what I was doing I did:
While this might sound like a rather pointless activity to some, it seems to be warmly embraced by those digital, decentred PoMo subjects out there who hardly have a sense of themselves anywayr. Twitter won’t help them to find the way back to a more integrated self, but console them with the illusion that, if their self is scattered all over the place, at least they might have an idea where they can retrieve the bits and pieces. For a brief moment, they can inscribe themselves on the surface of the simulations that surround them. The whole thing gets a (little) bit more interesting by the fact that twitter allows you to notify your friends to tell them what you are doing and to get notifications about them. Hmm.
The twitter homepage gives you an idea of the things those desperate souls are up to:
Not convinced? Ha! In a way it was useful that Baudrillard ‘died’, otherwise I wouldn’t have dug him up from the sediments of my memory nor have been receptive to other folks’ writing about him. If you look at the phenomenology of Twitter, you’ll soon find out that it takes on the form of what Baudrillard has described as ‘the test’:
This regulation on the model of the genetic code is not at all limited to laboratory effects or to the exalted visions of theoreticians. Banal, everyday life is invested by these models. Digitality is with us. It is that which haunts all the messages, all the signs of our societies. The most concrete form you see it in is that of the test, of the question/answer, of the stimulus/response. All content is neutralized by a continual procedure of directed interrogation, of verdicts and ultimatums to decode, which no longer arise this time from the depths of the genetic code but that have the same tactical indeterminacy – the cycle of sense being infinitely shortened into that of question/answer, of bit or minute quantity of energy/information coming back to its beginning, the cycle only describing the perpetual reactualization of the same models. The equivalent of the total neutralization of the signified by the code is the instantaneousness of the verdict of fashion, or of any advertising or media message. Any place where the offer swallows up the demand, where the question assimilates the answer, or absorbs and regurgitates it in a decodable form, or invents and anticipates it in a predictible form. Everywhere the same “scenario,” the scenario of “trial and error” (guinea pigs in laboratory experiments), the scenario of the breadth of choice offered everywhere (“the personality test”) – everywhere the test functions as a fundamental form of control, by means of the infinite divisibility of practices and responses.
We live by the mode of referendum precisely because there is no longer any referential. Every sign, every message (objects of “functional” use as well as any item of fashion or televised news, poll or electoral consultation) is presented to us as question/answer. The entire system of communication has passed from that of a syntactically complex language structure to a binary sign system of question/answer – of perpetual test. Now tests and referenda are, we know, perfect forms of simulation: the answer is called forth by the question, it is designated in advance. The referendum is always an ultimatum: the unilateral nature of the question, that is no longer exactly an interrogation, but the immediate imposition of a sense whereby the cycle is suddenly completed. Every message is a verdict, just like the one that comes from polling statistics. The simulacrum of distance (or even of contradiction between the two poles) is only – like the effect of the real the sign seems to emit – a tactical hallucination. (The Tactile and the Digital in: Simulations. The Order of Simulacra)
Twitter’s perpetual question ‘What are you doing?’ is precisely such a litmus test of the twitters’ contained form of existence. The content of their messages, denoting what they seem to be doing, is completely irrelevant, but in answering, they’re integrated into the system of production. Who would ever have thought in the 1970s, when the first data security officers had to be hired by governments and companies alike, that people would one day crave to be controlled in this way!
P.S.: I have myself taken up a new hobby: tagging my images on flickr with tags that don’t make sense in order to shift the signal/noise ratio a bit more to the incomprehensible. For my twitter screens, I chose ‘twatter’. But I am not a real revolutionary, as you can see if you look at my vast array of WordPress tags – I have to admit that it’s basically copyright issues that I want to circumvent in doing so. Garbage in, garbage out!
P.P.S.: Another thing I am trying to understand for the third time now are trackback links. Is my blog trackback enabled? Yes/No? What do I need to do with someone else’s trackback URL? I am going to incorporate the trackback URL to the Twitter hater post, but I don’t really think that that’s the way to do it? Must I maybe click on it later? EDIT: I did, but nothing of what happened seemed to make sense.
P.P.S.: The final countdown: 17 more days to go until the end of Lent!