The sometimes surprising, often humorous story of the forces that came together to shape the central role Twitter now plays in contemporary politics and culture
Is Twitter a place for sociability and conversation, a platform for public broadcasting, or a network for discussion? Digital platforms have become influential in every sphere of communication, from the intimate and everyday to the public, professional, and political. Since the scrappy startup days of social media in the mid-2000s, not only has the worldwide importance of platforms grown exponentially, but also their cultures have shifted dramatically, in a variety of directions. These changes have brought new opportunities for progressive communities to thrive online, as well as widespread problems with commercial exploitation, disinformation, and hate speech.
Twitter’s growth over the past decade, like that of much social media, has far surpassed its creators’ vision. Twitter charts this trajectory in the format of a platform biography: a new, streamlined approach to understanding how platforms change over time. Through the often surprising, fast-moving story of Twitter, it illuminates the multiple forces—from politics and business to digital ideologies—that came together to shape the evolution of this revolutionary platform. Jean Burgess and Nancy K. Baym build a rich narrative of how Twitter has evolved as a technology, a company, and a culture, from its origins as a personal messaging service to its transformation into one of the most globally influential social media platforms, where history and culture is not only recorded but written in real time.
Jean Burgess is Director of the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology. She is co-author or editor of five previous books on digital media, communication, and culture, in addition to over a hundred other scholarly outputs. Nancy K. Baym is a Sr. Principal Researcher at Microsoft in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is the author and co-editor of three previous books about audiences, relationships, and the internet. More information, most of her articles, and some of her talks are available at nancybaym.com.
Nancy K. Baym is a Sr. Principal Researcher at Microsoft in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is the author and co-editor of three previous books about audiences, relationships, and the internet. More information, most of her articles, and some of her talks are available at nancybaym.com.
"Twitter: A Biography is not merely a historical exploration of a digital platform. It is a biographical retelling of a collective experience, one muddied and complicated by media ecology and an ever-changing system wherein the power balance between users and creators has been in constant flux ... It is a biography of us."
~The Journal of Popular Culture
"A deeply original book. Burgess and Baym provide both a deep historical understanding and innovative methodology, amassing to a project greater than the sum of its parts. Twitter has come to play an outsized role in the production of culture, politics, and civic engagement; fittingly, this little blue book not only maps the social life of Twitter as a platform, but also demonstrates how to think critically about the platforms we use. Burgess and Baym’s Twitter is thought-provoking, engaging, and relevant to all of us who log on."
~Zizi Papacharissi, editor of the Networked Self series
"Burgess and Baym have accomplished a rare feat: They have revealed the history of Twitter to be dynamic and fascinating, have put the users of Twitter in the forefront of the story, and have embedded the story with so many gems of brilliant insight that students, scholars, and retweeters alike will all learn much and enjoy this book."
~Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy