The @Twitter revolution and the Pulitzer Prize winners

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Contributing Editor at Large, Tess Lawrence, is intrigued about what Twitter.com Founder Jack Dorsey recently said to students at Columbia University's (home of the Pulitzer) School of Journalism about his world-changing invention.  She's got a damned cheek because even though she's a media consultant and teacher, she doesn't Twitter, but as she says to Independent Australia's Managing Editor, David Donovan, who DOES Twitter, "Those that does, do, and those that doesn't, writes about it". (53 characters, including punctuation.) She also takes a look at the Pulitzer Prize winners announced overnight. Read on, Dear Readers...
(a) Twitter, twit'-er, v.t, to make a succession of small, tremulous sounds, as of a bird; feel a tremulous, nervous motion: n. a small tremulous noise; slight nervous agitation.[i]

(b) " Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting. Simply find the public streams you find most compelling and follow the conversations.

At the heart of Twitter are small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters in length, but don’t let the small size fool you—you can share a lot with a little space. Connected to each Tweet is a rich details pane that provides additional information, deeper context and embedded media. You can tell your story within your Tweet, or you can think of a Tweet as the headline, and use the details pane to tell the rest with photos, videos and other media content."[ii]

The Moving Finger having Twit moves on. And too bad if you don't get it right first up. That genius is well out of the bottle. More applications to come.

Twitter is as varied as the people and organisations who use it. It will no doubt burgeon even further into the international telecommunications landscape and, as things stand today, in my opinion is poised to eclipse Facebook in usage, as unlikely as that may now seem.

The impact of both Twitter and Facebook has shifted the world from its political axis. Think Iran, think Tunisia, Think Egypt, Think Libya, think North and East Africa and indeed, all points in between and beyond.

It may yet prove to be a more effective weapon than any gun. And cause less harm.

Of all international political leaders who use Twitter, US President Barack Obama is regarded as the most savvy. Remember his use of social networking in his election campaign? It's on again, since he announced his sprint for a second term.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull are two of the more prolific Tweeters here in Oz.

It is worth noting that whilst some countries and their citizens use Twitter in crisis-riven situations trying to bring about regime change and further the cause of democratisation, others use it more for promulgating individual notoriety and wealth. The rule is — there are no rules. And we better get used to it.

Twitter is an invaluable commercial tool.

And you have to take with several grains of salt, any declaration that a Twitter site is actually being operated by the person/organisation that reflects its name.

Often media minders and even PR machines administer Twitter sites for the people/organisations concerned.

There is no doubt that certain situations are fabricated, manipulated and indeed prove fortuitous to promulgating sellebrity status, ergo Celebritney Spears.

Par example, whilst we are apparently seduced by the traducery of, by, and for, celebrity Twitterers, embedded in many of their Twitter accounts are advertisements and endorsements.

We've featured two of them here. So you can see for yourself.

There's world famous beauty, model, Liz Hurley, the mother of Steve Bing's son and, of course, she's Hugh Grant's ex (after he was arrested for performing a lewd act with prostitute Divine Brown on June 27 in 1995).

Poor Divine. Poor Hugh. Poor Liz. Nope. You've gotta be joking! Great for tabloids. Great for Twitter.

Now she may – or may not be – or once was – involved with Australian larrikin cricketer Shane Warne. Facts don't matter. Speculation is everything. Don't you just love it?!

The on-again-off-again imperative is always a juicy ingredient. Sometimes it’s drugs and rehab and sometimes it's an affair so hot, hot, hot that you can hear the heavy breathing through the phone. OMG!

The couple has been inconveniently and covertly (wink, wink) photographed tonguing it in a London hotel. Sure. ‘It would be a fine romance with no kissin.’ Isn't that how the song goes?

Well, Twitter sings their song. To the tune of cash registers. All notes accepted. Even promissory ones.

Both of them have openly tweeted one another and participated in and orchestrated secret rendezvous (wink, wink) where only a couple of thousand of their favourite paparazzi were staking out their trysts in Australia and elsewhere.

Newspapers and magazines and websites all around the world have even retweeted the retweets.

Both of them are busily flogging their own merchandise on their sites — as well as being paid handsomely to flog other stuff.

So they need one another in this Phineas Taylor Barnum-type pantomime.

And in this type of scenario, it is critical that the myth – or the reality – be kept alive and regularly fed raw flesh.

The more followers you have, the greater your income. Twitter is a legitimate advertising and commercial tool — as well as an important personal communications device.

It is already changing the habits of families and communities and has unquestionably given rise to evolving and new languages — and not just in English, don't forget.

Because of the character limit in the message, it is also exciting in the way it encourages people to be innovative in encapsulating and capturing their thoughts.

Those of us in love with words and communications have to acknowledge there is sometimes a degree of arrogant dismissal of 'tweetspeak/textspeak'.

You can make Twitter anything you wish. An official document. An emergency services notice.

X-Ray results. Supermarket specials. A political rally. A call to arms. A call to alms. A love letter. Any type of letter. You don't even have to be alive to tweet. Elvis Presley has a Twitter account.

To me it is yet another wondrous dialect arising from the loins of our parent languages and adaptive to the great gifts of modern technologies and inventions.

As always the catch is in what we do with what we've got. My hope is that we use these gifts that Jack Dorsey and others give us, for the greater good, although the discerning of the ' greater good ' is at times difficult to fathom and define.

Access to the internet and its machinery are critical keys. Keeping open the lines of communication between the peoples of the world means that ultimately, we can all be part of the solution since we are united in the fact that so many of our governments decry us as being the problem.

And don't forget to follow Independent Australia on Twitter by clicking here.

On topic, the following article was published on March 29 by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and has been reproduced with full permission.

No character limit: Twitter creator Jack Dorsey at the J-School

Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, also founder and CEO of the new startup Square, packed the Lecture Hall at Columbia Journalism School Thursday morning for a candid conversation with Wall Street Journal Technology Editor Julia Angwin.

After an introduction from Dean of Students Sree Sreenivasan, Angwin began by thanking Dorsey for speaking before the large crowd, when he had originally agreed to meet with a small group of students in a class she teaches at Columbia's School for International and Public Affairs. Dorsey "looks like a nice guy, but he's a quiet revolutionary," Angwin said, referring not only to Twitter's impact on social media and its role in movements across the Middle East, but also the potential importance of Square in making credit card scanners more accessible to the general public.

Dorsey first noted that, after a few years away from Twitter that he has spent leading Square, he's returning to head up Twitter's product development while maintaining his role at the other company.

"I live and breathe these companies," Dorsey said, and suggested that they are fundamentally similar in that they operate as utilities for consumers. "I see Twitter as a pure utility, like electricity or water," he said. "It's as good as how people want to use it."

Dorsey recounted that the earliest beginnings of Twitter lay in his adolescence, when he was growing up in St. Louis, Missouri. He had taught himself programming and was fascinated by listening in to the dispatches from ambulances and police cars and devising ways to track their movements on his computer. Years later, at a brainstorming session with fellow programmers at a playground, Dorsey remembered the notion of enabling people to make updates about their location in real time. The idea was well received and soon acquired its name because the dictionary definition of "short, inconsequential bits of information" seemed apt.

Dorsey touched upon his business model for Square, which provides consumers an attachment to their tablets and smartphones that enables them to handle credit card transactions simply and in some cases for a smaller fee than the established system. "Square is enabling people to start a service or a business immediately," he said.

Dorsey also addressed privacy issues in a world increasingly awash with data, and emphasized that it's important to distinguish between mass data about consumer behavior and specific information that can be tied to individuals. He concluded his appearance by taking numerous questions not only from the live audience but, appropriately enough, viewers who had followed the event via Twitter at #cjjack.

Read coverage of this event from The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Reuters.

Pulitzer Prizes for Journalism announced at Columbia University

When Joseph Pulitzer got fed up with the corruption in the Republican Party and defected to the Democrats all those years ago, it was an extraordinary act of defiance and conscience that may well have reflected the very ethos of the prestigious journalism awards that today bear his name.

Overnight, New York's Columbia University announced the winners of the 95th Annual Pulitzer Prizes.

Carol Guzy: Haiti weeps

I must make mention of The Washington Post's Carol Guzy, whose heartbreaking photographic rawness of the Haiti earthquake earned her a record-breaking fourth Pulitzer, this time in the ' Breaking News' category.

Looking at the victims through Carol's eyes and lens, they are so real and full of humanity that one almost has to spit out the dust and blood captured in her images.  But note the 'aloneness' of many of her subjects.

If a picture says a thousand words, her pictures do not need them. She makes us mouth the silences of grief.

We live in a world where natural and man-made catastrophe daily litters our media content along with corpses of every gender, size and colour and sandwiched between the architecture of Donald Trump's comb-over and where ' product ' and ' content ' is generously provided by PR machines and spinmeisters. Compassion fatigue abounds.  It is so easy to become inured and desensitised to disaster. Partly through self-preservation as well as diffidence.

Sorrow can be all-pervasive when there is no counterbalance to this injured ventricle of the soul.

It is extraordinary that there was no award made for 'Breaking News' coverage, given the tumultuous conduct of nature — and we humans, in these past 12 months alone.

Enjoy reading the work of finalists via our lists and links here — and Independent Australia salutes the Prize winners, among them Australian Sebastian Smee, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his work with The Boston Globe.

In a sign that gladdens our journalistic heart, we note that for the first time, a Pulitzer Prize has been awarded for a story that appeared online only - and on the not-for-profit and highly regarded ProPublica.

Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein won the 'National Reporting' Pulitzer Prize for their works on Wall St bankers and related issues.

This is the second award for the highly respected ProPublica, whose Sheri Fink last year won a Pulitzer for 'Investigative Reporting ' for her article entitled 'The Deadly Choices at Memorial' published in partnership with The New York Times Magazine.

Carol Guzy: "Sea of Sadness"

Her compelling story dealt with the contentious issue of euthanasia at a hospital in the spillage of Hurricane Katrina.

I sense that the rebellious and competitive Joseph P would have loved Jack Dorsey's Twitter and would have been among the first to embrace online technologies.

As a publisher and printer, he was so 'out there' and innovative with his use of colour and the like and his journalistic combat with William Randolph Hearst is legendary.

I often imagine what he – and Hearst – would have done with these communication tools and broadcast channels.

What would Joseph have done with YouTube?

His Moving Finger would have done more than merely writ.  Piety, Wit and Tears notwithstanding.

By the way, the Independent Australia Twitter account is www.twitter.com/IndependentAus.

[i] Definition from the Modern English Illustrated Dictionary.  Special Daily Express Edition of The British Empire Universities, under the chief editorship of the Reverend Edward D. Price, 1923.

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