So, I was going to write about Obama’s Twitter Town Hall…but it was, by most accounts, pretty boring. So, lets talk about why it was a bust. There seem to be two easy (and likely partially/largely spot-on) answers:
We know the president gives long answers in which the logic/argument progresses, is well-explained, and attempts a nuance that is likely not amenable to Twitter. So, why are people surprised he didn’t tweet, or that he was verbose? I think a much more interesting question than “why’d this flop” actually concerns these expectations: Can “interaction” really work across different media platforms? Phrased differently, can we ask questions on Twitter and be happy with a response that’s made for face to face (or straight-to-camera)? From most measures of discourse, we got the “best” (or at least better) answers than we would/could have gotten via Twitter. They were longer, clearer, explained, better articulated, and could be clarified to some degree. Are our expectations different in different media, so that answers from one will always fall short when asked via another? Similarly, is this an example of what “interaction” really does not mean in a social media environment? Taking Twitter (which, sure can be used as a broadcast medium, but whoa, let me tell you, that is not what people at Netroots Nation think you should do with it), and functionally turning it into the jumping off point for a short essay portion of the exam is not what dialogue is, even if there are two people. Less important question: how much of this was a let down because Obama is known for Doing Cool Internety Stuff!, and this just actually wasn’t too internety.
2. The questions were the usual suspects too–Republicans did a very good job flooding Twitter (another piece of anecdotal evidence concerning an excitement problem on the Left?). This was exceptionally well/poorly played by Republicans/Democrats, respectively. Congrats and admonishments to the proper groups. A question this brings up though: While it was easy to see how this unevenness played out in this one instance, it’ll be more interesting to see how it works across all of Twitter–what will strategies for winning on Twitter be? When there aren’t such precise hashtags for every waking moment of a campaign (or if there are and they become deluges that don’t interest people), how will groups/individuals be mobilized?
Also, who will be mobilized? There’s lots of commentary out there about how this was the usual suspects speaking. Boehner got a question, Kristof got one–these aren’t new voices. Twitter likely is rearranging some things with who gets heard (too short on time for links for these assertions right now), but not entirely. Networks still have hubs, and most hubs are likely to have been hubs before social media started shaking some stuff up. Still, those that do become hubs (who weren’t before) seem potentially really interesting–what gets you that boost? What type of people/content/topics moves someone from = middling to somebody? Hey social network analysis people, figure this out for/with me? Kthanks!