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Monday, 25 June 2012

What is Pritter's Achilles' heel?

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

25 June

Serious or not, I do not believe that it is any more possible to have a debate by Splatter/Twatter than by MSN Messenger: with the latter, because of the immediacy of seeing the other person's reponse, it's all too easy to feel the need to reply quickly (perhaps, more and more quickly) and, sooner or later, say something (or in such a way) that, if interpreted differently, gives rise to offence, defence and even reprisal.

In theory, if the visuals on Skype weren't such rubbish and not in synch, it would be better than a telephone-call. Still, with a conversation by telephone, there is potential for noticing and acting on such cues as inflexion, intonation, breathiness of the voice, involuntary ways of evincing surprise, shock, etc. - you know, all those things that go to make up the 92% in that standard iceberg cod-psychology diagram*, which purports to show how little of the meaning in a face-to-face conversation is in the words. (Oh yes, generalizing diagram? Just try saying 'You're fired!'(or 'Your mother is dead') to someone in a serious voice, and ask how little he or she took from your words!)

As to Pratter, with a character-limit similar to text-messaging's regrettable re-invention of the telegram's pressure on words to save charges, it should be no worse than text-messaging, except that there is an arena, a sort of Big Top: by which I mean that, if I send a text-message to Dr Paul, some time (which may be longer than one expects) it gets to his phone and, one hopes, he reads it and, in his own time, replies (if it needs a reply).

So much holds true for both: I can choose to expend money or time on an extended text-message, just as I can send a follow-up Tweet straight after. What remains (or results) is the fragmentary nature, not just of the correspondence, but also of the means of conducting it (especially on a handheld device), which has the potential, not least when other debates / conversations are going on at the same, for participants not stopping to check what the other person did say before letting go a broadside.

However, telecomms errors and hacking apart, a text-message doesn't go to anyone else's phone, for which read 'is publicly available on Witter - until I choose to delete it - for anyone who decides to do what is weirdly called following me' (sounds like licensed stalking ['Someone's following me' never sounded like a good thing before], but there we go. Here, though, with my debate with Dr Paul, which may involve misunderstandings, misrememberings, misconceptions, all this is (circus again!) being played out before an audience, even if it probably is an audience that couldn't care less, and glances - or scrolls - past**.

I believe that that element of 'dirty washing in public' changes things, both as to the things said, and the desire (albeit resistible) to say things back. Combine that with doing whatever it is in 140 characters, or multiples thereof, and what a mess results!

And who softened the blow / profile of all this under the cunning aegis of calling it all 'social media'? Pratter is a tool that has the potential to be a divisive medium, if not just a repository for endlessly spread links to Internet items or products whose actual worth or interest one cannot judge from the Tweet itself. This sheer advertisement and self-promotion might be better placed on t.v.


* Which, as Tomkinson's Schooldays would possibly say, was seen by Potter Minor on a training-course, reproduced afterwards with slightly variant percentages and passed on to Venables, who couldn't read the scribbled figures, but had a guess, and delivered them in a lecture heard by Barnstoneworth, who told Eric Olthwaite...

** Unlike the rubbernecking that gives rise to those dangerous slow-downs on Motorways, as if either the pulled-over police-car with the flashing lights gives a screw about the other drivers' speeds just at that moment, or the sight of a vehicle on its side is inescapably edifying.

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