When Modes of Information Diffusion Collide

Anyone familiar with Twitter probably knows about “live tweeting” during television broadcasts.  In my own Twitter feed are several “followees” on whom I can depend for a play-by-play about the shows “Scandal,” “Girls,” and “America’s Got Talent.”  Sometimes one, sometimes another of these “friends” are live tweeting and every now and then several of them are at it at the same time.

What I experience at that moment reminds me of the lovers in the film “Letter to Brezhnev” who looked up at the moon, one in England, one at home in Russia, and observe that they were united by looking up at the same moon. They don’t actually communicate at that moment, but as viewer of the film, I experience their “virtual connection”  as the spatial separation between the lovers is romantically collapsed by mutual gazing at this distant, real object.  My Twitter friends do not necessarily follow one another so I may be the only witness to their synchronous experience, but the analogy is this: in one case the moon “broadcasts” its light, in the other a television network broadcasts a show and in both cases I experience the simultaneous common experience of others.

During the 2 March 2014 broadcast of the Academy Awards, host Ellen deGeneres took a photo of herself and a few attendees and tweeted the photo while exhorting the audience to make it the “most re-tweeted tweet of all time.”  It is unlikely this has never been done before but the phenomenon brings up something interesting.  2,909,385 retweets as I write this about 18 hours later.

Now, shows like Scandal and Girls and especially contest shows like The Voice or America’s Got Talent actually make an effort to get people to tweet about them and athletes have often tweeted before or even during a competition, but deGeneres’s gambit was slightly different.  She showed us the tweet (or at least informed us of it) and gave us a photo that we saw being composed and taken (indeed, we can find a picture of the picture being made as we see below).

Reportedly, 43 Million people watched the Oscars.