Twitter and Information Retrieval

Twitter is an excellent example of the sort of technology that we can come to expect in Library 2.0 and the emerging culture of the industrialized world. In “Twitter: what’s all the chirping about?” Elia Ben-Ari makes a compelling argument case and portrait of this website which has revolutionized the way people communicate and interact. The author highlights the implications of the Twitter service as it contributes to an interconnected society where ideas and content can be created and shared seamlessly and effortlessly.

While many Twitter users “tweet” (or post) to update their friends of their daily adventures and minutiae, contributing to a personalized system of expression not constrained by mandatory viewing or participation, Ben-Ari reports that an increasing number of scientists and intellectuals are utilizing the service to exchange ideas and professional progress reports. The result is a population more cognizant of one another’s experience, contributing to more harmonious and effective workplaces and friendships. Twitter’s capacity to interface with mobile devices is noted for its ability to keep people connected even while in the most remote regions, as SMS technology uses substantially less bandwidth than internet access.

The author brings up an important point: Twitter has yet to adopt a mechanism for validating tweets on the basis of truthfulness. When the H1N1 scare struck, many users, panicked and ignorant, spread false information about the virus. While scientists did attempt to assuage fears by posting quality links and information snippets, there is no mechanism within the system to “up vote” or “thumb up” valuable tweets, and thus they were not spotlighted against the slew of misinformation. This speaks to an important point that Michael Stephens illustrates in “The Ongoing Web Revolution.” Stephens argues that an important component of sound Web 2.0 is “reputation… a way of knowing the status of other people in the system (Who’s a good citizen? Who can be trusted?).”

In this sense Twitter is perhaps deficient and may yet to be without flaw. In our industry we are guardians of knowledge and of truth, and without a means to differentiate between flimflam and good trusted sources, Twitter may not be an effective tool for librarians to reach the masses. There is an issue with complete freedom being granted to your userbase, as is the case with Twitter: anyone can pretend to be another, and information becomes relative, relegated to the domain of opinion. While this may prove nourishing as a means of interfacing with humanity for the purpose of socializing, this student is still wary of its widespread civic and corporate application.


Works Cited

Ben-Ari, E. (July-August 2009). Twitter: what’s all the chirping about?(BioBriefs)( BioScience, 59, 7. p.632(1). Retrieved September 01, 2009, from General OneFile via Gale:

The ongoing Web revolution.(Chapter 1). (Sept-Oct 2007). Library Technology Reports, 43, 5. p.10(5). Retrieved September 01, 2009, from General OneFile via Gale:

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