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Our search model is the Rhetorical Situation.



Exigence can occur from the author or the audience.


Messages are nearly always in response to either some sort of event, or a message from another user. Those messages are nearly always prepared to suit the event or the message of the other user.


Twitter is a digital forum that has many inlets. Some users tweet from home, work, mobile devices, or wireless laptop connections while on the go. Messages come from many locations, but all end up in one digital viewing area.

One user said:
It's a little like being in a giant chatroom populated exclusively by the people you like and respect. Or, at least, are amused by.
Maria Trombly, Shanghai

Others see it differently:
Twitter is CB Radio for Blogstars and their groupies.
Wayne Schulz


The audience is a semi-anonymous, general audience. I say semi-anonymous because users may know who they are speaking to personally, or may have become acquainted with their internet persona, but messages are still able to be read by complete strangers without the user's knowledge.

Also, audience members can quickly become rhetors in an ever changing dialogue. This adds a new dynamic to the traditional audience/rhetor relationship one might see in a lecture hall, print media, or even other online social networking programs like facebook or myspace. Twitter allows for an instant dialogue visible by a large anonymous audience that you don't see in other forums.


One of the interesting things to note about self in regards to Twitter is the ability of posters to choose entirely how they are portrayed. On Facebook one has many in-depth choices regarding their profile, but others can still tag and add photos of them and post comments on their wall, so others do shape one's self on facebook. Not in twitter. Users have a small profile with a short bio and an avatar. They can also link to a website that can further the image of themselves. Often these links are to a MySpace page or blog. Beyond that the messages they send establish their persona. Everyone begins on twitter with a semblence of anonymity.


Twitter can be utilized through two main mediums, the web and text messaging via mobile devices. A growing movement is using a seperate application, like Twhirl, to tweet.


Simplicity is the factor that most affects Twitter. Being limited to a certain number of characters and using an interface that has relatively few functions lends an atmosphere of brevity, immediacy, and openness.
You hit the nail on the head - people post to Twitter before they do in their blogs because it is so easy to do it. Who has the time to write a full-blown blog post when the same thing can be conveyed (and must be conveyed) within 140 characters! Twitter might have started as a fad, but there is a curious genius behind it which its authors possibly never intended.

The rhetorical situation of Twitter causes certain trends and patterns to appear in posts. The fact that there exists an anonymous audience that is unlikely to offer any negative response may make rhetors more likely to post mundane topics because this audience lends more importance to what is said. "@" posts on Twitter are in many ways similar to wall posts on Facebook. While the messages are tailored to a specific person, the audience remains public.

The immediacy of Twitter also affects the utility of messages.
An exerpt from this article on
Whether it's natural disasters, political developments or breaking tech news - it's common to discover items of interest first on Twitter. Robert Scoble wrote a year ago about how Twitter users reported a major earthquake in Mexico City several minutes before the USGS did. Zolie Erdos chronicled last month how Twitter users beat government agencies and the world's (formerly) leading news organizations in reporting on March earthquakes in both China and Japan.
Marshall Kirkpatrick

Profiles seem to be of little importance. What is most important are the messages that users consistantly post. Most Twitter users have some sort of niche. Their repeated postings in this niche are what attract followers and establish a persona. We can see that most Twitterers never change the small ammount of information on their profile, and many do not change their background to anything flashy. Most change it to a flat color even though the background could be used to indicate something about the user.

Twitters must offer real messages that go beyond links to their blogs. Users who simply post links and make no actually commentary are generally not followed long.
I hate it when people link to their own stuff on Twitter, I have done it a few times but completely stop doing it once I realized how annoying it was to other people.
I use it primarily as a one-way microblogging plugin for my web site. I'd actually be MORE efficient if people didn't try to communicate with me on it. I would caution folks to not go crazy with the self-promotion - I've pruned about 20% of my contacts who mostly broadcast links to their blogs, which I already read.
Dave Zatz

Despite being limited to only 140 characters, twitter users demand meaningful content from tweets not just links to other information elsewhere on the web.

Why do people tweet? The exigence for tweeting is in many ways similar to the exigence one might have for creating a blog post, but it also contains aspects of instant messaging and the group process one might find on a wiki site. Twitter is a collaberative social network in which users share information and commentary. In simplifying the interface, the creators of Twitter have made a tool whose characteristics are a blend of the core characteristics of other internet utilities.

Specialization in tools breeds excellence at certian tasks while limiting diversity of a tool's functions. A hammer is much better than a rock for driving in nails, but slightly less efficient as a thrown weapon, paperweight, and building material. Simplicity means that Twitter can't blog as well as Wordpress, or chat as well as AIM, but it can certainly blog better than AIM and chat better than Wordpress.

Nobody tells you what to do with Twitter beyond the primer, "What are you doing now?" Many of Twitters functions have gone beyond that primer in using it as a tool for communication or a way to make multiple individuals aware of an event or issue. These are not the simple status updates that "What are you doing now?" suggests a user should post. The simplicity, versatility, and utility of Twitter allow creative users to go beyond functional fixedness and discover new ways to use the tool.
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