Thursday, December 31, 2009

Twitter Carrying On Woodstock Spirit 40 Years Later

I watched the movie "Taking Woodstock" last night and thought that 40 years later Twitter may be the techno age equivalent of the 60s music festival. In the 1960s music was the communal force of its generation and Woodstock represented the ultimate platform for the expression of its time. Three days of peace and music was the tag line for the event that epitomized a generation.

The festival met with a lot of obstacles from the conservative powers that be in the beginning but by the end of the event had won many over. The musical "come ins" of the 60s were venues where the youth of the United States and much of the rest of the world could gather to meet, make friends and discuss the issues of the day. Many of the conversations were aimless and trivial, but had relevance to those holding them, much like many Twits. But amid the babble there are many important discussions occurring.

The decade that ends today has been one dominated by the internet and all things electronic. Music still holds an important place but it is social media that has become the place where we gather to hold our "come ins" - though they are called "tweetups" (one of the Oxford English Dictionary's words of the year).

The gathering of war and social protesters at the music events of the 60s is reflected in the use of Twitter as a gathering place for this passing decade's voices of protest and new thoughts.

While there may not be as many popular songs of protest that were around back then, there are social platforms that allow everyone to have their voices heard in ripples throughout the "global village".

More than MySpace which can be thought of as the first truly online global village or Facebook, the largest global social network, Twitter has become our social communication tool. The teenagers, who once looked at Twitter as something for older people, are fast coming around and "the older" crowd, who never used MySpace and rarely played with Facebook, have started to embrace the application.

Like Woodstock that just happened at the right time for the explosion of people who attended or tried to get there and made the event a nexus of a generation, Twitter can attribute some of its massive adoption to the growth of mobile devices and the apps that allow access to their application.

Neither Woodstock nor Twitter made money at first. The concert needed the movie rights and merchandising to see a profit after the event, but the organizers fought to hold it. Twitter obviously has yet to see a profit for their efforts, but they see its importance and future potential.

The lyrics of the Joni Mitchell song ring true of the potential of Twitter as a platform for social change. "I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes/ Riding shotgun in the sky,/ Turning into butterflies/ Above our nation" could be an echo of the sentiment of the Iranian protesters using Twitter to voice their desire for change in their country.

"I feel myself a cog in somethin' turning./And maybe it's the time of year,/ Yes and maybe it's the time of man./ And ... life is for learning".