Twitter, Scratch and Class

Thinking about how technologies can and do organise online space socially; I was looking at a twitter topic that was trending this evening. It was simply the word ‘Haters’ and it consisted of hundreds of people retweeting a quotation attributed to one ‘DJ scratch’: “Most haters don’t even know they’re haters because they’re surrounded by Haters”.

From their avatar pictures, the tweeters appeared to be predominantly African American and many had names like Joe7821 (not a real user) and it made me think about how early adoption, and mass popularisation and uptake can create social stratification – that is, the latecomers have to append numbers in their username because the vanilla ‘Joe’ username was already  taken (and ironically, usually by some tech-savvy white middle class person). Appending a number to your username means you weren’t first to the twitter-party and that means you’re outside of the early adopter social group. That’s reason enough to be looked down upon by some. I’ve felt the pressure from this in the past, and the pressure to do similarly to others.

This is all anecdotal, of course, but it reminded me of Danah Boyd’s write up of her research into how certain social/cultural/racial strata of Teens in the US gravitate towards one or the other of Facebook and MySpace. It was an illuminating read when I first came across it a few months back and it opened my mind to the idea that technology is not a neutral force on society – not least of all internet technology. Boyd’s post ‘Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace’ can be read online here. Her response to criticisms levelled at the original blog post/essay is also interesting as it deals with the difference between blogging and academic writing, and how her essay was mistaken for the latter while meant as the former. The essay apparently ‘took on a life of its own’ and was misread and critiqued. Here are her answers to some of those criticisms.

I take quite a bit of pride in being an early adopter, but is that really a good thing? In what circumstances could my taking pride in belonging to an early-adopter crowd be to the detriment of someone else?