North­eastern assis­tant communication-​​studies pro­fessor Vin­cent Roc­chio is an expert in media, cul­ture and society who ana­lyzes the effects of Twitter and other social-​​networking sites on com­mu­ni­ca­tions and infor­ma­tion.
Here, he shares a few of his insights into the terse new world of tweeting.

How is Twitter affecting the way we com­mu­ni­cate?
It rein­forces the range of dig­ital tech­nology, which is a fun­da­mental, indis­pens­able mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In iso­la­tion, Twitter is not such a pow­erful cul­tural phe­nom­enon. But, along with IM, email and the cell phone, it’s part of an entire social world where being con­nected is everything.

Does it affect the way jour­nal­ists report the news?
The cor­po­rate, con­glom­erate nature of media has far, far more impact on the way jour­nal­ists report news than does Twitter—more impact than even dig­ital tech­nology, for that matter. If any­thing, Twitter and the rest of dig­ital tech­nology have the poten­tial to chal­lenge news reporting and make it better.

Dig­ital tech­nolo­gies let those inter­ested in a story net­work their own exper­tise, and chal­lenge and cor­rect the work of main­stream journalists.

What has led to the pop­u­larity of Twitter and other social-​​networking sites like Face­book, MySpace, and LinkedIn?
The dig­ital cul­ture tries to fill a void with vir­tual com­mu­ni­ties. We are so starved for authentic com­mu­nity, for being part of a larger pur­pose, that we gladly accept being “con­nected” as a substitute.

Is all this infor­ma­tion access causing over­load?
No, the term “over­load” is a red her­ring. The actual problem is the way all this tech­nology leads people to work more and more, even when they are at leisure.

What are the pros and cons of com­pressed com­mu­ni­ca­tion?
The down­side of com­pressed com­mu­ni­ca­tion is that it “dig­i­tizes” lan­guage and cul­ture. We are not encour­aged to think about social real­i­ties in com­plex and detailed ways. Instead, we cat­e­go­rize them according to smaller and more rigid parameters.

For example?
If you com­pare tweets to works of poetry, the dig­i­ti­za­tion of lan­guage becomes clear.
The upside of com­pressed com­mu­ni­ca­tion is that it impels us to ana­lyze dis­course for its essen­tial meaning, its core concepts.

At a recent MIT con­fer­ence on the dig­ital cul­ture, you simul­ta­ne­ously spoke about dig­ital media and har­nessed the power of Twitter.
I was deliv­ering a paper on ped­a­gogy in dig­ital cul­ture. At the same time, the con­fer­ence mod­er­ator was fol­lowing behind me and sending tweets—point by point—to people who could not attend.

Are you on Twitter?
I am not. I see more down­side to Twitter than pos­i­tives. My not using it is a per­sonal resis­tance to lan­guage com­pres­sion. Long live full sentences!