Reading and Tweeting

Lisa Halverson (Open High School of Utah) is reading Lord of the Flies with her students, and they are Tweeting as they read using the hash tag #lotf. (Apparently another group recently began using the same tag for “Land of the Free,” but you’ll find a solid group of Lord-of-the-Flies material if you scroll down a bit.)

Many Twitter users have observed that, on balance, Twitter is shaking down to be more about information-distribution than about building communities. However, this is a continuum, not a binary: users do experience the creation and especially the maintenance of communities on Twitter. It seems to me that this might be especially true for reading groups.

A Twitter hash tag search is easily saved as an RSS feed and can be incorporated into a class’s web site and consulted whenever the reader likes. Feeling isolated in your reading? Want some inspiration from your co-readers? Check the feed. Contribute to it. Build up your reading community.

My principle shared reading project right now is reading Context of Scripture in a year, mainly with Joseph. But I am also reading The Story with members of my congregation. And of course, I am frequently reading biblical texts along with my students.

This application of Web 2.0 is almost ridiculously easy, and so is readily introduced to the non-web-savvy: sign up with Twitter, learn to use a hash tag. Have you ever Tweeted as part of a reading group? Can you imagine doing so?

[Reading and Tweeting was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/04/09. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

“But What is Twitter (or Whatever) For?”

I don’t seem to be following anyone who uses Twitter to alert me to their choice of breakfast cereal.

Well, one guy, one time. But he tried to make a persuasive case for its relevance, and he included an acknowledgment that he was embodying a cliché. All in 140 characters or less, mind you. Mostly, the people I follow are tearing off tweets on biblical studies, on Bible software, on trends in higher education or in the social web, on typography, on events in Uptown Evanston Illinois, on languages and linguistics, and on web shows in which Joss Whedon is involved.

I bring this up because whenever somebody raises the question of What Twitter Is For, we get the obligatory assertion that Twitter Is For Telling People What You’re Eating. (Or that Other Thing. You know.)

Here, slightly edited and reformatted, is a comment I made ’way long ago over at Bryan’s:

If Twitter has taught us anything (a premise I know some would question), it is:

  1. First make something possible (“Hey look, Twitter.”).
  2. Then we’ll see what sort of nonsense people do with that thing (“Hey look, I’m sitting on the john I’m eating breakfast cereal”).
  3. Then we’ll see what creative people really do with it once they get going! (“Hey look, I’ve been detained without charge.” “Hey look, a secret earthquake in China.” “…a revolution in Iran.” “…a TED talk relating unexpectedly to my field of study.”).”

My point is that even Twitter’s creators didn’t know what Twitter is for. Rather, that has been (and continues to be) decided by each user, in her own decisions about use if she decides to dink around with the thing.

(If you do decide to see what anyone in education is doing with Twitter, there is some stuff to see once you look.)