What are we doing? Microblogging, the ordinary private and the primacy of the present

Mark Coeckelbergh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
198 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose - This paper aims to better understand the cultural-philosophical significance of microblogging. In this way it seeks to inform evaluations of this new medium and of the culture and society it co-shapes and in which it is rooted. Design/methodology/approach - Engaging in philosophical reflection inspired by philosophy of technology, political philosophy, and cultural history, this paper identifies and discusses some structural features of microblogging such as Twitter. Findings - This paper discusses the following structural features of microblogging as a medium: an emphasis on activity, the rule of opinion, emphasis on the ordinary and on the self, blurring of the private/public distinction, the primacy of the present, and the paradox of distance and proximity. The discussion also suggests that microblogging remediates ‘older’ media such as letters, e-mails, texting, diaries, and newspaper writings. Finally, the paper explores some strategies to cope with the new medium, including ‘hacking’ it in order to widen the spectrum of possibilities it offers. Research limitations/implications - Practical implications - The paper assists users and policy makers to reflect on how new media such as microblogging might change the way we live and think. It helps them to better understand the medium and to evaluate its use. Originality/value - Although there are data available now on the use of Twitter and other microblogging technologies, there has been very little philosophical reflection on the phenomenon. This paper begins to bridge this gap and makes novel connections between ideas from different academic fields
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-136
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of information, communication and ethics in society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • IR-77357
  • METIS-279936


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