Tweeting George Orwell
George Orwell has been dead for 59 years. The brilliant British author, whose nightmare vision of a future in which technology and ideology combine to enslave humanity has been haunting readers for more than half a century, never lived to see the rise of the real-world inventions that might make "Big Brother" real. Orwell never encountered closed-circuit surveillance cameras, data-mining universal wiretaps, criminal psychological profiling, Air America Radio, or the Fox News Channel.
But George Orwell is on Twitter. Every day, you see, the Orwell Trust tweets an excerpt from the dead writer's 1938-42 diary; through the magic of microblogging, you can now relive George Orwell's life, as he lived it-just seventy years and one information revolution later. Even literary giants sometimes write boring prose. Orwell's diary / tweet for today is certainly less interesting than yours or ours: "Quite hot, but today cloudy. Hopefully the good stuff comes later.)
Orwell on Twitter raises an interesting question: Is the information overload associated with the microblogging phenomenon just the next step on our civilization's long road towards? Will teachers harness the power of decentralized communication to engage today's students on their own ground? Or will students use ever more fragmented communication channels to subvert authority and academic integrity? Is the decentralization of information inherent in the Twitter model a means for us to liberate ourselves from the centralized power of "Big Brother"? Hard to say, for sure; perhaps the answer is both. Maybe George Orwell's next tweet will help us figure it out.