I just heard from the Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference that my proposal was accepted so I can now blog about it. The conference is at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, October 7-10. Here is my abstract:
Twittering My Life Away: Twitter as Gendered Space
Twitter is self-described as “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages.” Used via web or phone, Twitter is a way to build and maintain friendships by having 140-character simultaneous hallway conversations with people who share interests with you, no matter where they are. Clearly, this is a way to build and maintain communities where distance would otherwise make connections deteriorate. At the same time, skeptics wonder why anyone would be open enough to do this, to share 140-character snippets of life so regularly. Clearly, something more complex than career or self-promotion is happening here. In a tweet, Social Media guru Howard Rheingold proposes an answer: idle conversation is social glue.
As feminists interested in egalitarian modes of communication, the contradictions in Twitter use should fascinate. Twitter enables easy mentoring, but at the same time can appear relentlessly superficial. Deep connections can be made, but how may not be immediately apparent to new users. Even the terms inspire ridicule from some: Twitter, tweets, twitterverse, tweetup, retweet, tweeps. This persistent view of a complex medium as innately superficial may have more to do with pastel colors and cutesy terms that the broad functionality that exists beneath the baby blue and flowered surface. Twitter may be the first social media since the princess phone to overtly choose a gender while, unlike that princess phone, also embracing all users.