After Oprah started tossing out tweets, I decided to chat with a local journalist and news editor who covers arts and culture via Twitter.
Following my post on Vancouver City Limits and their online archive of local music, I interviewed Jarrett Martineau (a.k.a. @culturite) about how Twitter is helping nourish online arts and culture communities.
He said the best way to get involved in Twitter is through building a community of interest and trading information, links and thoughts—which may include reading what Ashton Kutcher had for dinner or what bands are playing at the Biltmore that night.
“When I first joined, [Twitter] seemed meaningless—like I was just casting these messages into a void,” says Jarrett. “But then I started connecting with the local community, and beyond, and it became about sharing things that I’m into… Now I love it—not so much looking for information, but stumbling across it serendipitously: that discovery aspect of seeking out interesting people to follow and engaging with them.”
In terms of culture, Martineau explains how Twitter is changing the audience–artist dynamic. Audiences can now access the inner workings of an artist’s schedule and creative process—from tracking the details of a DJ’s setlist or singer’s lyric writing to following her or his movements from an airport, to a cab, to a restaurant, to a venue.
Toronto-based techno producer and technophile Ritchie Hawtin developed an application to help crowds decipher the songs he plays in his sets. It uploads track details to Hawtin’s Twitter account every 30 seconds, while past sets are available at the Tweetplaying Archive.
For music audiences, Blip.fm allows listeners to act as DJs themselves, lining up playlists and adding commentary to their favourite songs. As well, on May 17 fans posted thousands of Twitter updates from the Cine 13 Theatre in Paris as Canadian pianist Gonzales broke the Guinness World Record for “longest concert by an individual.” He played over 200 songs in 27 hours and 3 minutes.
Like other social media, Twitter enhances the ability of anyone to tell a story and build an audience. Musicians—both new and established—put out songs or link to streaming albums. Some end up cursing their commitment: Mike Skinner from The Streets promised fans to release a half-dozen new songs via Twitter.
While Twitter is a useful promotional tool, given its lightning-fast distribution network, Martineau said he’s personally more inclined to use it to share music, links and other interesting information than to seek out events.
Regardless of how he uses it, Martineau said Twitter has transformed the way he experiences the Internet: from surfing history-focused, archived websites to following events as they unfold. There’s no lag time: songs, news, events, links—all are continuously passed along and exchanged.
And while some have criticized Twitter as nothing more than mass online navel-gazing, Martineau pointed out that like most media, with Twitter you get out what you put in.
“A lot of people see Twitter as a conversation…[where] people share aspects of what they’re doing or thinking,” he says. “Twitter is only as interesting as your engagement with it.”