Tag Archives: Johann Gutenberg

Ethnographic reportage: one tweet at a time

I love people who tweet from inside their lives. 

I really love people who tweet from inside an event.

Here, first image, is someone tweeting from inside a visit to the printer. (Read from bottom to top.)  

[I apologize for the quality of this image.  I am using Skitch and WordPress, and this appears to be the best I can do.  Click on the image for clarity.]

Confined to 140 characters, a tiny keyboard, and the discomfort of texting while waiting and standing, this can’t be ethnographic in any conventional sense.  But what it lacks in cultural background, it makes up in vividness and emotion.

Here, in the second image, is “Johann Gutenberg” reporting the frustrations of having to sit in a meeting that presumes to rally the troops with vapid, brainless generalities.  As Johann reminds us, it’s like being forced to witness the death of your own intelligence.  

Working in the moment has a certain heroism.  ’Johann” is acting as a kind of war correspondent, bravely posting under fire, vulnerable to discovery at any moment. 

“This close to heckling.”  Brilliant.  

How many millions of times has this impulse gone repressed in corporate America. Well, why just corporate America?  Educational, medical, governmental America, too.  There is no shortage of stupid people keen to colonize our consciousness with their personal limitations.  

In a more perfect world, we would know who WWGD really is.  (I am betting he or she is not really a 15th century goldsmith, not unless someone got their time machine working.)   We would also know the person who staged the Sales 101 meeting.  The light of public revelation can sometimes discourage stupidity.  Not always but sometimes.

I believe Twitter sprang from a technology designed for emergency personnel, people who needed to send tiny messages in the heat of the moment to solve very immediate problems. But it is learning to serve other purposes, and in some cases, and the right hands, it becomes a new observation platform for the study of American culture.