Published on July 2nd, 2011 | by Andrew Reynolds
The Twittering Classes
Throughout events leading up to and including the Arab Spring uprisings there were two kinds of response on Twitter:
- those that sought to broadcast from ground zero, giving detailed accounts of the atrocities being committed outside their front doors
- and those who sought for change: the activists who wanted to change the world with optimised download speed.
It’s not as if these two positions are anything new. Twitter didn’t just invent online activism, on the ground reporting and rallying. What it has achieved is to make those areas of the mass media readily available and legitimised the actions of the individual through the power of the ‘re-tweet’
However, it also comes coupled with a challenge; Twitter doesn’t need constant maintenance like Facebook, it doesn’t remind you its Gary’s birthday or that person with the weird shaped head at work wants to be your friend or that you need to add Houses of the Holy to your favourite tracks.
It isn’t about you, its for you.
Twitter represents a sharper, wittier version of yourself who, in a few choice words (making it perfect for mobile access) can create something out of nothing and cut the great and the good straight to the quick; with handily placed hash tag so that everyone knows what you’re talking about.
With all this potential for change and, conversely, all the self serving opportunities it offers its no wonder you never really get an accurate portrait of the gamut of Who fans online.
Stick with the mass media as your guide and you’d think the Whoinverse was just a grab bag of inanities waiting to give colour and structure to the latest quasi-review in the Metro.
This is almost the inversion of legitimising through numbers only thanks to that very same hash tag your now part of a readily open stream of opinions you might not share or even credit with any kind of response.
You’re now representing everything and nothing all at once- you’re a Doctor Who fan therefore what ever you say has the air of an expert (even if its self proclaimed) and all because you might have written after one episode: “River Song iz well fit!”
All of this inverse snobbery and lazy journalism may throw doubt on the role of the expert in the media (can you imagine the alternative? A Metro review filled with quotes from people like Gavin Fuller linking everything back to some nominal incident in Terror of the Zygons with all the elegance of someone trying to put a libraries worth of prose back in order after a herd of Rhino’s had rampaged through the place) but this is only the result of someone trying to retro-fit an existing model onto a new one.
Twitter is good for immediacy but terrible for analysis. It can provide users who have never met with the chance to engage with one another.
In theory it sounds like a dream and occasionally it works (Steven Moffat for all his professed grumpiness does listen to/correct fans theories/potential plot holes quite regularly), however, as with all like-minded groupings on the Internet it is prone to the whims and ignorances of its users.
Now instead of approaching the agencies themselves – like the virtual “Flat Earth Society” who in the wake of the 2012 episodes controversy wrote to Private Eye demanding that they retract their original story because its sources were not named (I can’t imagine why such sources wouldn’t want to be named? These fans make the world of Doctor Who seem like such a rational place to be) – some fans resorted to grandstanding.
Fans that have mounted an online petition against the BBC for a full series of Doctor Who in 2012 and threatened, rather impotently, that there will be consequences if the 50th Anniversary series isn’t 22 episodes long (right, so they can’t afford 14 episodes in one go and you want that and 8 more on top for the 50th anniversary? I bet you guys cry on Christmas morning…)
Like forums before it, the OTT nature of some corners of Who fandom can crowd out the more rational, inquisitive fans who use Twitter to engage with both the creators of Doctor Who and the commentators.