Secrecy, intrigue and twitter

I’ve been watching the new pope being sworn in (does a pope get sworn in?) and all of the tradition and the pomp & circumstance which surrounds the occasion. Secrecy and intrigue are clearly paramount in this process, apparently the Sistene Chapel is swept on a daily basis to ensure no listening devices have been planted by interested parties. And Cardinals are threatened with ex-communication if they attempt to make contact with the outside world. The intrigue continues between the appearance of the plume of white smoke and the eventual appearance of the new pontiff, with the BBC commentators speculating enthusiastically and with growing anticipation. One of them made a comment about how oftentimes during momentous worldwide events there are twitter feeds from first hand witnesses, but of course this could never be the case in this process and interested parties just had to wait and see. Without having a view of whether this was a ‘good thing’ or a ‘bad thing’ I thought it was an ‘interesting thing’. Here is something that will affect millions of peoples’ lives; in a connected world (at least in the so-called ‘developed’ world); where public and private are arguably no longer separate notions; but yet a group of men in a church can still make an entirely secret decision which holds the world’s attention. And most interestingly to me was the fact that there was a swirling mass of multimedia opinion/speculation/excitement/disdain, and more, dancing around the process but not being allowed to touch it. Perhaps there are just some ‘places’ where the walls are too thick.

(The picture attached to this post is a world map of twitter trends taken about an hour or so after the event. It’s perhaps not surprising that most of the trends in the roman alphabet have some connection to the pope. Although I was rather taken with the trend of ‘shed’ in Australia!)


3 Responses to “Secrecy, intrigue and twitter”

  1. Jen Ross March 14, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    you’ve started me thinking, Steph, about the concept of ‘privilege’ as it relates to digital culture and privacy. danah boyd has written about this – . She argues that privilege in the online sphere is primarily about being able to be public (or to be made public) with little risk of negative consequences. I think you might be describing another facet, though: the ability to control when, where and how privacy is maintained or surrendered.

    • cmeckenstock March 28, 2013 at 5:33 am #

      Indeed, the privilege to privacy! It is really pertinent now to stop and think about how this plays out in our lives now. We so readily gives out information and what is private is changing. I wonder if there is already studies to look at the definition of privacy in the digital culture compared to a world which is untouched by it?

  2. Steph Carr April 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Thanks Jen, that’s a really useful article. Boyd, I think, is possibly over-egging the pudding on the ‘privileged’. I think it’s probably a bit blunt to say that they, those who are already in the public eye, ‘don’t have to worry so much’ about what people think/say about them. I think the stories which came out in the Leveson review, for instance, puts the idea of their privilege (not worrying so much) on slightly shaky ground.

    But to take her ideas forward, I think the Pope, or rather the tradition of the election of the Pope, is perhaps in an uber-privileged group (alongside the choice of the royal wedding dress perhaps – (there’s no accounting for why they may belong to this group:-) )). These are huge, worldwide, events where not a squeak of insider information is released/leaked/overheard/gathered and this, to me, shows extraordinary power. And puts the ordinarily privileged, and the non-privileged right back in their place. A sort of twisted re-establishment of the establishment.

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