Going Open: Citizen Openness and Twitter’s Moment in Social Media

I saw a tweet aimed at Tweettronics.com, a startup that aims to report on conversations in online media. The tweet warned that all your conversations are being recorded. And indeed they are. And for the most part, I think it’s a good thing. Whether up front, like in Twitter, or via more devious means (which Tweettronics does not do), a good share of your online conversations are available for recording.

People will vary on what matters to them, but the stuff that matters most, I think, is to protect your ownership identify, which connects you to your healthcare coverage and ownership of accounts and things. (“ownership identity” is the identity you must be able to assert and which aligns with documents that show you own something, like a bank account.).

The most valuable thing Twitter provided in the development social media is that by default, user conversation and the access to it is open. Unlike Facebook, where privacy and mutual friendship are considered necessary, Twitter began with openness and followers. Where one defaults to an intimate private conversation (ideally), the other defaults to open conversation with anyone who is interested (and it’s not a mutual interest or regard). The result has been that with Twitter we have a playground for developers and citizens to figure out more about how they interact and what matters to them.

I’m not sure how long it will take, or even if, this openness will end. As I noted above, ownership-identity is perhaps the only thing at stake in transparency, and privacy is a poor security hack that only makes it difficult for someone to lose control of their ownership identity, not impossible. And in the current zeitgeist, transparency and openness seem to be values that combat the downside of privacy: that we all can see and engage with each other (more or less) in the hope that as equal citizens we can polilce each other and find the general good. As opposed to privacy’s tendency to seclude of power and foster non-democratic decision making.

Open access to conversations can be a good thing, and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to explore them.


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