My book in a tweet asks a Sociology 101 class at George Mason University

Yesterday, JL Johnson @jaeljohnson was teaching my Twitter book to his Sociology 101 class at George Mason University. He asked his class to summarize my Twitter book in less than 140 characters.

@jaeljohnson tweeted: “Limitless comm in digi era&brevity reigns @dhirajmurthy asks good/bad? Look @ history 4 connections w/past tech says +info -depth #sociology”

When he and some of his students tweeted at me regarding this assignment, it reminded me of the many occasions I have been asked to summarize my book into a tweet. A former colleague of mine, Brian Purnell, asked me to do this during a filmed discussion (on YouTube) we had about my book. The best I could come up with on the spot, at the time was ‘I tweet therefore I am’, a reference to a chapter in my book which plays on the famous Cartesian aphorism. But, I quickly backtracked (as I do in my book) saying that Twitter does not follow the strict, reductive Cartesian dualism (separating mind and body), but rather is a part of modern social communication for many of us. What I mean by this is that Twitter is highly socially embedded for many users and any strict dualism is highly problematic. I ended up in my response to Professor Purnell [around 1:13 on the YouTube video] with the answer: ‘I am social therefore, I tweet’. This ties in with the larger argument in my book that Twitter is part of complex social relations and we tweet for a multitude of  sociopolitical reasons, which span from updating our followers to what we just ate to a cancer diagnosis or, more criminally, to hitting a cyclist (with that tweet leading to the Tweeter getting arrested).

I’m glad to hear my book went down well in @jaeljohnson’s sociology 101 class! I thought that the class’ tweet was insightful in teasing out some of the key aspects of my book, including its commitment to historicizing Twitter.

2 comments
  1. GMU Sociology 101 People said:

    Thanks for blogging about our class discussion and tweet! Here are our questions:

    Have other classes used Twitter in a lesson like we did?

    Has Twitter acknowledged your work?

    How did you come up with title- why use the company’s name instead of something like “Microblogging”?

    Do you view tweeting as a social staple- and if so, what about those left out (digital divides)? If one does not tweet, is s/he not social?

  2. admin said:

    Thank you for your questions!

    1. Have other classes used Twitter in a lesson like we did?

    Other classes have definitely used Twitter for various pedagogical purposes. Indeed, there is some academic scholarship now emerging on the uses of microblogging in learning environments.

    2. Has Twitter acknowledged your work?

    Interesting question. The managing director of Twitter UK follows me and has read my book. I would welcome chances to discuss my book with them so if you know folks at Twitter you want to link me up with, please do!

    3. How did you come up with title- why use the company’s name instead of something like “Microblogging”?

    Another great question! I spent a lot of time reflecting on the title and whether it should include microblogging or something to that effect. I chose to use the medium’s name for a couple of reasons. First, Twitter has become a household name and is, in my opinion, worthy of scholarly sociological analysis. Second, using the medium’s name makes the book more accessible to readers outside of academia (e.g. people interested in technology for example). Lastly, other media such as YouTube have been book titles and have been able to sustain attention for a full length monograph.

    4. Do you view tweeting as a social staple- and if so, what about those left out (digital divides)? If one does not tweet, is s/he not social?

    I absolutely do not think that tweeting is a “social staple”. Like any technology, it is socially stratified. In the case of Twitter and many other social media, the stratification present some different trends to other technologies. Specifically, as the Pew studies have indicated, Twitter is quite pervasive amongst young minority communities in the US. Though that presents great opportunities to cross some traditional digital divides, other existing divides continue and new divides are being created. Older Americans, for example, are not highly present on social media so I (and American Seniors I am guessing!) definitely do not agree with the statement: ‘If one does not tweet, s/he is not social’.

    Thank you again for your comments. I have enjoyed discussing my book with you.

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