Researcher Toby first got in touch when he was starting out his MA in Applied Theology, and he’s settled into a very interesting question in his study:

"[what is] the nature of social media, using Twitter as a case study, and how it might be inherently inclined to change us as people and cultures in different ways, along with an exploration of the theological implications of that."

Have a look at these questions and answer if you can.

Tweeting out loud: extruding our inner voice into the digi-sphere

I’ve spoken with Charles Fernyhough before. The developmental psychologist was interviewed for the very first episode of the very first series of the BBC Radio 4 programme The Digital Human. Then, he was talking about capturing the experience of being a child.

Tomorrow (on Saturday 17th August) on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, he and I and author Aamer Hussein talk with chair Bridget Kendall about capturing our inner voices - those snippets of logic and chaos that we say to ourselves inside our heads.

More from the blurb:

This week on the Forum: do you ever consciously talk to yourself? Maybe muttering in private what you won’t say out loud, or giving yourself a private pep talk to improve your performance, or perhaps arguing with yourself about whether to do something or not. We explore these inner monologues or dialogues, what shapes the process, and ask if they are a good thing, or can they trap us inside ourselves? British psychologist Charles Fernyhough explains why he believes the inner voice is vital in helping guide us through life and is rarely a sign of mental illness. Pakistani fiction writer Aamer Hussein writes in both Urdu and English, and explores the tension between thinking in one language and being forced to interact in another. And the American social psychologist Aleks Krotoski has been looking at how the internet affects the way we talk to ourselves.

Charles has a few interesting things to say about social media and inner voices - specifically the microblogging site Twitter. Here was his enlightenment, back in 2011 in Psychology Today:

I suspect that I also use Twitter to think out loud. I’ve written previously on this blog about children’s private speech, and how it seems to be their medium of thinking before verbal thought becomes internalized. I wonder whether I use Twitter for some of the same purposes. Talking to yourself seems to have many different functions, for adults as well as children. For one thing, it can express feelings. Many of children’s private utterances seem to have a function in emotion expression and regulation.

I wrote about the research that describes the functions of such apparently unnecessary gibberish in Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You: specifically, Oxford researcher Danica Radanovich and her colleague Massimo Ragnedda have a delightful paper comparing it to what anthropologists in the 1930s called phatic speech.

But Charles goes further. He says Twitter serves an even more crucial function - it helps us work through problems. It empties our minds of unnecessary nonsense so we can use more of our brain function to process things. We draw on both our inner speech and the dialogues that we engage in with our network.

You can hear more on The Forum on Saturday 17th August 2013.

And you’ll also get a dollop of fantasy from me in the programme’s 60 Second Idea To Save The World.

Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop (get 50% off with code UTW07FG), on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

sharing personal information with students (on Twitter) can increase the perceived credibility of the instructor

Johnson, K. A. (2011). The effect of Twitter posts on students’ perceptions of instructor credibility. Learning, Media and Technology, Vol 36(1): 21-38.

full text pdf

A small-scale study that shows an increase in students’ perceptions of instructor credibility (competence, trustworthiness & caring) as a function of self-disclosure on Twitter. Specifically there was evidence for an increase in ratings of credibility if the instructor used the microblogging platform to tweet about personal information.

Interestingly, there was no evidence of an effect between social-only tweets (greatest credibility of all) and a combination of social and instructional tweets, or instructional-only tweets and the combination of social and instructional tweets.

I like this explanation: 

No longer do teachers need to use class time to reveal bits of personal information about themselves: instead, this revelation of information can take place outside of class in a forum where students can choose whether to look at it.

posted after “RT @philgyford: Obituaries/memorials for people who delete their online selves. “Mark Pilgrim. 1991-2011. He will be missed.””


Removing my online self is an option I’ve often considered and I think, if it was possible to do it cleanly and leave no trace, I might well do the deed. It’s the imperfection of the process that puts me off as much as anything

Graham Linehan, the celebrated writer of Father Ted and The IT Crowd, and collaborator on Big Train and other uniquely British comedies, spoke with sci fi author Cory Doctorow at The Story conference in London in February about storytelling process. Increasingly, the Web has taken a central role.

Antony Mayfield took some great notes from the conversation. Here’s a taster of what Linehan said:

  • He spends six months of constructive procrastination – he calls it “systematised goofing off” gathering ideas while mainly surfing the web.
  • Everytime he gets an inspiration it goes on a card. Cards are colour coded by characters.
  • An example would be a YouTube video he saw of a child crawling into an amusement arcade machine where a claw grabs the prizes – that became a set-piece in The IT Crowd where Moss dives into one after an iPhone…
  • When he has about 100 cards, it is time to begin…
  • The cards are laid out on the floor and he begins to string set pieces into episodes, about ten per episode (presumably they get thinned out).
  • Once he has the stack of set pieces per episode he has ” a good place to start”

But in addition to the Web being his resource for inspiration and research, the man known as @glinner on microblogging site Twitter also told the audience that he chose his writing collaborators for the next series of The IT Crowd out of the people who make him laugh in his twitterfall.

Juliebee documented a couple of his examples:

He’s recently been using Basecamp to collaborate with other writers (“people who make me laugh on Twitter”), starting with a blog or an image, allowing a conversation to grow in the comments. It takes it some way to becoming a story.


He turned to Twitter for help during a last minute rewrite of ‘The IT Crowd’. On the day of recording a courtroom scene (Roy had been kissed on the bottom and sued the culprit), @Glinner asked the world of Twitter to find him alternative words for ‘arse’ in return for a credit on the DVD. He used a few, his favourite being ‘bike rack’.

Let’s see, as [the story of the Chinese earthquake in 2008] unfolds, whether this is the moment when Twitter comes of age as a platform which can bring faster coverage of a major news event than traditional media, while allowing participants and onlookers to share their experiences.
BBC - Twitter and the China earthquake by Rory Cellan-Jones (@ruskin147 on Twitter, of course).