This seems to be doing the rounds right now, so I might as well offer my take.
I don’t think Twitter actually needs a purpose per se, more than being a facilitator. By enabling organised data streams to be established and monitored it would seem to be taking our communal existence to a new level.
Some technologies are interdependent, and Twitter style providers will become more relevant as personal mobile communication and functionality becomes more accessible and powerful. I’m envisioning the communication system in Appleseed: Ex Machina.
Take the concept of Dan Simmons’ ‘World Thing’ in his Hyperion novels, where the level of communication integration is such that the population achieve a special interrelated union. It is a futuristic development of the Internet with intimate personal communication integration. When the data flows are so widespread, privacy and filtering of the data becomes vital. Twitter generates many personal data flows, and attempts to systematise the ones you subscribe to in a convenient manner. Related themes and topics are presented for your perusal. In the Hyperion books, the ‘World Thing’ was a kind of supervenient entity, formed by the communal data flows of mankind, extending to all articulated walks of life and more pervasive than the internet by its nature. Not just a repository of information, but an active and current reflection of the perceivable world echoed through the senses of every connected person in real time. Gives me a tingle thinking about it!
The Internet/’World Thing’ as it develops is becoming the summation of humanity and its ideals, defining the extent of all communicable experiences, knowledge, beliefs, opinions and morals. So, what lies beyond this garden of delights? Is there anything the ‘World Thing’ cannot cover? Simply – anything that is essentially private or uncommunicable. At the moment, this includes personal experience at its most raw level of sensation. It also includes secrets that people do not share – the definition of privacy. There is a tension here, as the ‘World Thing’ demands disclosure and sharing as the ultimate group construct.
I wondered a while ago what would happen if you were part of a religion which insisted on constant digital communication, to the extent that you considered yourself to be part of a group identity. Taking exams would be curious if you were constantly talking to your mates! One might even start to question the point of amassing personal knowledge when there is an everpresent data resource called the Internet already there. In other words, as information technology facilitates these social transitions, what resultant changes can we expect to see? See the post ‘What are Schools For?’ for more on this.