Jean Burgess and Nancy K. BaymMay 6, 2021
NYU Press 2020
As Twitter enters its own adolescence, both the users and the creators of this famous social media platform find themselves engaging with a tool that certainly could not have been imagined at its inception. In their engaging book Twitter: A Biography (NYU Press, 2020), Jean Burgess and Nancy K. Baym (@nancybaym) tell the fascinating and surprising story of how this platform developed from a quirky SMS tool for publicly sharing intimate details of personal life to a major source of late-breaking news, political activism, and even governmental communication. This story explores how many of Twitter's most ubiquitous and iconic conventions were not systematically rolled out from a centralized corporate strategy, but so often driven by users who continued to innovate within the limitations of the platform they had to democratically create the platform they desired. Yet this story highlights the tensions along the way as Twitter has adapted to new and unforeseen challenges, business models, and social consequences as the experiments of social media have become increasingly powerful, influential, and contested. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the wild and changing landscape of internet communication and communities.
Ryan David Shelton (@ryoldfashioned) is a social historian of British and American Protestantism and a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast.