Twitterverse or Twitterville?

"Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe..."

The community of twitter is referred to as the 'twitterverse' (as a
counterpart to the 'blogosphere') but in many ways it seems to me more like
a city than a universe.

In many theories of the city, the appeal of the urban setting is the
opportunity to be a flâneur. The internet allows for this type of
experience, the idling, browsing, window shopping, virtual voyeurism...

It also allows for people of similar interest to find one another, something
that only cities have historically afforded. One of the drivers of migration
to cities in the modern period has been cultural affinity, as well as
economic prospects. Think of all the writers, artists, musicians who have
moved from small towns to New York or Paris to pursue their careers. For a
writer, that certainly isn't an economic choice. It's much cheaper to live
in Moosejaw and spend your spare change on envelopes and stamps than to live
in Manhattan, working as a waitress while the New Yorker keeps rejecting
your submissions. But it is the cultural atmosphere of the city that draws
such people in. Of course, a virtual cityscape cannot fully replicate the real thing. But I
am struck by the way that twitter has evolved to be much like a city. When
we live in a city, of course we don't know all the other inhabitants. We are
aware of them, hear their cars, see them in crowds on the street, but
actually interact with a much smaller number. Those who live in our
neighbourhood, or our coworkers, or people we meet through common interests.
As it is on twitter: we create our own networks through the people we
follow; reading my twitterfeed is sometimes like being at an endless
cocktail party, as conversations between shared acquaintances drift past me.

The immediacy and intimacy - and, let's be honest, triviality - of much of
the content makes this less like some kind of grand republic of letters
based around carefully composed screeds, and more like the small talk and
off-the-cuff comments of coffee house conversation. Real conversation, the
kind that allows people to gradually get to know one another. As in the
scenario on a subway or in a café, of "I couldn't help but overhear you were
talking about...."

At the same time, the possibilities for connexion of affinity via the
internet can reduce the need for physical proximity to urban conveniences. I
have met people saying they don't mind living somewhere out of the way,
provided they have Netflix and Amazon and deliveries from Peet's coffee.
Although this seems new, of course it was mail order keeping rural people
connected a century ago. Indeed, I think ebay was responsible for a great
resurgence of post office use in the last 15 years. Things do change though:
it was once possible to even order a puppy from Sears.

Like any big city, twitter contains conversations in many languages, among
people of all ages. It's not a universe, it's a cluster of humanity. We
don't voyage millions of miles, but just stay in our own town (or indeed, on
our own screen), to encounter new people: isn't that just like living in a
big city? Welcome to Twitterville, make yourself at home.