Twitter: The millennial megaphone

A bridge made of pebbles is an excellent analogy used by Johnson (2009) in describing the use of short Tweets to create something so large – an atmosphere of constant awareness. I feel that this analogy could be applied to many aspects of the internet. The plethora of information which is available online creates the notion of what we know as the internet or cyberculture itself. This overabundance of information, which has been aided by the rise of mass ameaturisation, has developed the organisational habit of sorting.

The previous communication models where the audience is considered passive and absorbent are now being literally rewritten by society. The interactive nature of online content, through selection and sorting of relevance had developed the emergence of a participatory culture. This culture has not only created effects online, but also offline through the advance of new ethics, credibility and collective intelligence. In this world, consumers become prosumers, where participating has its own rewards. However, the ease of creating online content has vastly altered the power balance between traditional news outlets and the emergence of new information hubs. Consumers can now actively seek information and furthermore, critically analyse and evaluate an issue beyond the normative agenda setting of the industrial news outlets.

Bruns (2009) refers to the notion of ‘gatewatchers’ as ‘guide dogs’ who may point their users to useful reports in conventional news publications as well as to first-hand materials from official or unofficial sources or to insightful commentary and analysis; in other words, they watch the output gates of other sources, and further publicise the material published allowing people to compare and contrasts news with only a few clicks. The focus here has shifted from first hand investigation, to the development of retrieval and analytical skills. I think the concept of ‘gatewatchers’ is reoccurring in many facets of the internet beyond citizen journalism and is a reflection of the increasingly critical society which we are a part of.


Bruns, A. (2009) ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’ [URL:].

Johnson, S. (2009). How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live. Time [URL:,8599,1902604,00.html].

Mitew, T 2012, Social media and the rise of gatewatchers, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 10/09/2012.

Image sourced from:


11 thoughts on “Twitter: The millennial megaphone

  1. I think the Internet has been a crutch for traditional media for some time now and I think the Daily Telegraph has shown it throughout this week in particular. They’ve started a campaign against internet “trolls” on Twitter, which takes up a lot of space in their papers, despite the fact that (in my opinion) they don’t really know what a “troll” is. Although I do agree that in certain areas of media they have developed greater retrieval and analytical skills, I don’t think it’s as universal as it should be.

  2. The whole analogy of a bridge made of pebbles is a fantastic way to describe how the twitter hashtag tool can aid in the aggregation of individual tweets, to therefore create as you put it, “an atmosphere of constant awareness.” However i did some research on on twitter and i found multiple people agreeing with the notion of a bridge made of pebbles, but however there is constant criticism around twitter as well. This article by Jon Mitchell explains that with the increase in users on twitter, not all members use the hashtag feature for its intended purpose. There are numerous spam hashtags like “#ReplaceMovieTitlesWithPoop.” that show up in the trending section of you twitter home page. These spam hashtags hinder the the true purpose of twitter and make people ask “Whats the point of twitter?” Nevertheless The #discover section of twitter is an addition that successfully tries to aggregate news stories that are tailored for you. This makes twitter a little bit more like an RSS feed, making it that much more meaningful.

  3. I’m seeing the notion of ‘guide dogs’ taking form in new media consumption as well. The news articles that I pay particular attention to, are those that have been highlighted by those I admire. For example I follow Stephen Fry on Twitter, who is constantly posting links to important affairs across the globe. I only pay attention to these articles, because he tweeted it, and therefore I conclude this information is both accurate and important. Whereas if it had been tweeted by Fox News, there’s a good chance I would’ve ignored the article completely.

  4. Your mentioning of the communication models is significantly important as consumers are now “pro-users”, this notion as you stated “consumers can now actively seek information and furthermore, critically analyse and evaluate an issue beyond the normative agenda setting of the industrial news outlets”. We can see this process significantly undertaking a marketing degree, the evolving two way process of communication and the new push and pull models we come across. The development of the internet has and will continue to significant influence this processes.

  5. It’s amazing how quickly Twitter has become such a key site to me and not just for socialising. Three years ago when I first signed up for the site, I was only doing it for the sake of having it, but now it’s such a prominent internet site in my social life, uni work and finding news, sometimes all three linking into one.
    The analogy that Johnson used of the pebbles is true, as a friend will post something with a particular hashtag, I’ll become curious see what it’s all about and then link to a news story about it through my twitter feed.
    The question though of whether twitter is worth it is difficult as often you have to go searching through quite a few “junk” posts until finding a gem.

  6. Nice post. I particularly like your idea of Twitter and the simple act of “sorting” have changed the audience from active to passive. ryanjory I think thew problems of Twitter spam are easily overcome with the simple click of a button and even if you do come across unwanted material its all part of the sorting process that makes us active participants. Twitter gives us the option to actively seek out the information specifically tailored to our needs. ralphn91 uses the example of following Stephen Fry because of his posts on current affairs. I myself enjoy following a number of clothing brands for updates on new products and specials. This sorting power is what sets platforms like twitter apart from more traditional platforms like TV and print. This article by Rebecca McCarthy, , is a great example of how these more traditional platforms are trying to keep up with the changes!

  7. Now there are obviously issues regarding this movement. One which is at the forefront of the debate is the issue of quality. The centralised distribution model of news making relied on educated journalists, who conduct their research and production activities with dignity. How are we supposed to believe an average, unknown isolated blogger?
    I feel as if this comparative study of real life journalistic practice from both sides of the coin, highlights the fact that whether or not gatekeepers or quality controls exist, value is not assured. And in my opinion the value of the citizen journalist cannot be overstated.

  8. I find myself as a fence-sitter on whether or not the slow potential abolishment of “gatewatchers” is a good thing. Sure, the people having their say, breaking down of traditional barriers and all that business gives the consumer or now “produser” (citizen journalist) their own voice. However there is also the issues of credibility, value of information and delusion. Everyone has their own socio-economic context, beliefs and ideals and if we are all exposed to each others, or perhaps over-exposed to someones content that may no nessesarily be true could we possibly find ourselves deluded or mislead? In saying that though, industrial media outlets have been criticized for exactly this before. Maybe we just have to learn to deal with it…

  9. I feel that by saying “rise of mass ameaturisation” perfectly sums up social media today and the outlets that are available for public use and commentary. Online networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as personal blogs give individuals the ability to express their opinions and views on anything they please, which in my opinion is a positive feature of the internet as it provides a range of information and content, rather than being limited to what the mainstream media (tv news, newspaper, radio etc) feeds us.

  10. The bridge made of pebble analysis hits the nail on the head, Nikki. It is the perfect metaphor to describe how one Twitter user and one #hashtag can create something so big. It is amazing. My only first hand experience with Twitter started with this subject, but I had noticed its increasing prominence in traditional media. On the nightly news and current affair, and even reality shows, there is quite often a hashtag associated with it in order to get the public’s opinion on the issue at hand in real time. It is fascinating and often the results end up being a topic of discussion in themselves. Traditional media is also turning to ordinary citizens for information, asking them to send in photographs and videos, and this, as you said, has lead to the rise is mass amateurisation, which social networking sites, including Twitter, has aided. How far will these developments go, and at what cost to traditional media?

  11. I too thought Johnson’s point about the character limit was interesting. As you discussed, the Internet provides us with so much information, important bits get lost. Having such a short character limit has its benefits. Only key points of the information can be discussed, but links can be provided for people to search for further information if they wish. Your point about communication models is interesting. I have never thought of social networks to be this way, however you are right. This participant culture you have discussed is a perfect way to describe the nature of Twitter.

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