Twitter was founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass. It is a social media platform where users publish – or tweet -- messages of 140 characters or less, and can include links and pictures, and follow each other to see the messages. Another way users have of accessing messages is through the hashtag, which is represented with a pound sign. #Occupy was the hashtag that was used in tweets about the Occupy movement, and users could see all the tweets about the Occupy movement by clicking on the hashtag. Of course, users had to include the hashtag in their tweets in order to be connected to the larger dialogue. The character limit was chosen because the founders imagined that users would be texting many of their tweets, and the cell phone protocols only allowed a certain number of characters. The tweet and the hashtag represent a new kind of political pamphlet in three specific ways. In the first place, the distribution method is passive: rather than selecting recipients, it appears automatically to the pamphleteer’s followers. This model differs from physical or even emailed versions, as it is available for consumption but does not involve the pamphleteer choosing any recipients himself. Secondly, the 140 character limit redefines the purpose of the pamphlet and encourages “serialization.” Rather than the opinionated analysis readers might have encountered in the late nineteenth and mid twentieth centuries, twitter users are forced by the medium to distill their messages into the most necessary information. But Twitter uses who are expressing their own analysis of political events, as pamphleteers do, may post several tweets with the same hashtag, thus creating an ordered series. Twitter users, as pamphleteers are different than the pamphleteers of earlier times because the medium they were using – Twitter – constrained their messages in different ways. The most obvious way is the character limit, but a less obvious yet still significant way is reader expectation. Twitter followers don’t want to read the kind of pamphlet that the paten press produced, they want to read the briefer commentary that Twitter produces. However, there are also ways in which the tweet as a political pamphlet is less constrained – the readership is larger, access at least in the first world is ubiquitous, and there is an infrastructure provided by another entity – Twitter – where the pamphleteer using a Gordon Jobber or a Kluge might have been on his own for both writing and printing. The very meaning of the tweet is different than that of the political pamphlet, because of limitations and also because of the features of the medium.
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