Plebiscitary Nature of Twitter




University of Westminster





Undergraduate Dissertation, BA Hons

In 2009, the then leader of the opposition David gave a tantalizing sound bite on Absolute Radio:


“The trouble with Twitter (is) the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.”
(David Cameron on Twitter, 2009)


Hilarity aside, his point is succinct. Although he has now joined the 140 character revolution, at the time he said the reason he wasn’t on twitter was because Politicians should have to think about what they say. And this essentially conflicts with the instantaneous nature of Twitter. Or so he believed.


We live in an age where nearly every minute of our life is recorded. Whether it’s by the thou-sands of CCTV cameras, by our reward cards every time we make a purchase or by our-selves, online, when we post status updates.


Jamie Undergraduate Dissertation TwitterImagine your life as a train track, and you as the train; once we chugged along quite happily pulling along a single carriage with just enough room for small amount of memories and cherished goods that the steam train technology allowed us to carry. 


Once we ran out of space, but wanted to add something new to our collection, it was often at the expense of something else. However, technology has now evolved. The new superfast “rail” network has made it possible to always be connected and to capture every moment digitally and host it for free on the internet. Meaning instead of swapping out cherished items for new moments, we now have the power, with a click of a mouse, to add another carriage to our train. 


The social network means that we can now literally record, capture and crucially, let anyone read the emotional baggage that defines us. A sense of decay has been lost.



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Plebiscites, asking the people to decide in a swift moment, are seen as the ultimate democratic tool. But they are regarded as tyrannical error makers. A plebiscite falls foul of the power of crowd culture. It risks being manipulated by poorly informed public opinion that doesn’t allow for a reformed reflection of the evidence. Due to an emphasis on the short,rather than long term benefit; they are susceptible to overactive emotions and therefore error.

Twitter reflects a Plebiscite, because like the tool of democracy, it captures an authentic snapshot into individuals’ lives and the collective’s thoughts at any one time. Yet the true plebiscitary nature of Twitter is in the speed of its judgements which can at times be linked to lynch style feeding frenzies driven by a crowd culture, bolstered by safety in numbers.

This study examines the symptoms that have led to the Twittersphere expanding and whether Twitter itself is just part of a wider trend that focuses on the short, rather than long term.