Interrogating Twitter

Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald featured an excellent essay by Neil James, of the Plain English Foundation, defending the impact of “new media” on language. Insanely it is not available on the SMH website, and even the author/PEF has had to resort to a scanned copy1. Some of the many excellent points include:

Increased use of the written word:

In the US, a National Commission on Writing survey of teenagers and parents found that teenagers spend a considerable amount of time writing, and that they clearly distinguish between social media and more formal text. Their parents reported that their teens do a lot more writing than they did at the same age.

Improving communication:

Increasingly, the public will expect to take an active part in a more meaningful dialogue, whether as students or patients, customers or clients. Already, academic and industry conferences are running a Twitter backchannel through their events so participants can share comments and resources more widely. It is the kind of application that has made adults - not teens - the most prolific adopters of Twitter.

Diversifying public debate:

If a defining feature of democracy is the ability of citizens to participate in open debate, then the new media will inevitably strengthen and diversify our public conversations rather than dumb them down. The scale of participation is now beyond anything we’ve previously experienced.

There’s a Sydney Writers’ Festival event debating this topic this week.


  1. The SMH drives me crazy they are so backward with their digital presence. I’ll try and source a digital copy, but in the meantime the image will have to do.