6 thoughts on “The Gap in Michael Jackson’s Online Death”

  1. But…why do we need to know about these things immediately? What if we were involved in something far more meaningful? Do we really need to interrupt it to find out that Michael Jackson has died?

    I can understand if we’re talking about a tornado approaching, but that is very local information and even then you have to be sure you aren’t sending out too many false alarms, and early warning systems have tried to reduce their lead times over time.

    I didn’t learn anything from Twitter about Michael Jackson’s death other than that he died. The story is now entirely in the hands of the traditional media, and we’re glad they’re fact-checking so that we don’t have to sort through the mess ourselves.

    But Twitter sounds great if you want to live in a permanent state of crisis and a permanent world of breaking news.

  2. I can’t believe I overlooked this part, too: Michael Jackson was one of the strongest icons of the demographic that uses Twitter the most.

    Had Kim Jong Il died, what would the Twitter reaction have been? Would we even care what Twitter had to say? The only reason MJ matters on Twitter is because his death doesn’t really matter and that the facts of the matter aren’t important.

  3. Matt, all fair comments. We can’t, however, dictate what people are going to be interested in and any media organisation that ignored the Jackson story would have looked odd, to say the least (by comparison, how do you feel about John Lennon? Was that an important story? Elvis?)

    The Iran election has shown that no longer is there key demographic for social media. It’s used by all sorts of people in all sorts of places for all sorts of things.

    On false information: yes, this happens, which is why old media is still important: as much to refute as to confirm.

  4. I suppose my concern is that Twitter is really only useful for the pop culture aspects of a situation and not for the grey areas that represent the truth.

    During the civil war in Sri Lanka, for example, I assume the person who had my cell phone number before me was a Tamil because I was getting regular updates with some incredibly one-sided propaganda, suffixed with a message about where to congregate for protests. The length of text messages or Twitter comments forces you to remove all context or subtlety from a message (unless you are very skilled — it could well become an artform like the haiku, but few will have the skill) and this converts any useful message into rumour and gossip.

    So, these technologies are without doubt excellent for organizing people quickly.

    But for the purpose of informing, I guess I fail to see the difference between Twitter and the headlines coming off a newswire, except that I would be able to rely more on the accuracy of the newswire. And I don’t have the capacity to discern the truth for myself, so the latter is far more valuable to me.

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