Tweeting Outside the Box

Twitter's proposed character increase is underway with up to 10,000 embedded characters that can be indexed--unlike the current trend of attaching screenshots or other images that are useless for cataloguing our precious dialogues. This feed will most likely uphold the potency of the first line--a journalistic headline--but with an expandable box for extended content, even a full news story or personal novella. At 10,000 characters, it can no longer be called a tweet; it's an oxymoronic development that signals how even essential brand assets can evolve: is it a distressing growth or a sign of maturity?

Twitter unionized a collective narrative, initiating a living reel of one-liners that inhales and exhales the current cultural pulse. By each user contributing 140 characters, there is a potential cacophony of murmurs: an epic poem created by us. Twitter, with its benign blue bird and glib nomenclature, is perhaps an unexpected source but it's exactly that innocent directive that makes it, by Grant McCracken's terminology, a culturematic.

In 2006 it's creator, Jack Dorsey, created a little machine for making culture--one that asked us to distill information into bite sized tweets. By creating this box, the edges came into focus and true to culturematics Twitter imposed very simple rules that ultimately prompted provocative new perspectives on the narrative: It doesn't have to be long to be effective. This is partly evidenced by the tweet heard around the world--Twitter's integral role for media correspondence that presaged microblogging as a political tool during the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Ten years after its inception Twitter distinctively changed the way we receive news, use customer service, follow sports, read gossip, engage in political activism, and even make art. It upended attention spans and information consumption. It yielded an unusually perky mascot to ease admissions, that Disney-blue caricature (named Larry) who delightfully twitters around the world delivering over 6,000 tweets every second.

Most digital platforms alter input and output but what is definitively unique to Twitter is that 140-character limit, which asks users to simplify, quantify and rethink their narrative to privilege efficiency and readability, also forcing external links to relevant source material. The medium dictates a succinct message, an alert or probe--even if you tweet another two seconds later. Each user writes one line to a grand exquisite corpse that strings the web together.

The medium likewise carries an inherent time constraint; a quick update that evokes momentum, offering the ease of yet another and another. There's a rapidly progressing narrative that instantaneously builds upon previous tweets with a rhythmic tempo and an expectation that time will continually and expediently move forward or at least keep a beat. What happens to that beat when we get a whole lot more to say?

As users pause to consume larger chunks of information time might actually slow down. Garnered from current user behavior, this character development could signal a more engaged user invested in deeper conversation. Or it's just another example of an incessantly swelling news feed that's prime fodder for capitalist interjections and flippant citations, which potentially bring more ruin to questions of authorship. Either way, it's a new box with new boundaries to refocus the collective purr.