Twitter Rules

I was interviewed for separate articles on the Twitter phenomenon that appeared on the McClatchy News Service and in the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper. I talked about the origins of Twitter, how much it has caught on, and its effects. I further noted how Barack Obama’s Twittering will have a downballot effect on other politicians running for office who want to emulate him.

Some quotes:

“There’s definitely tech envy,” said Perlmutter, author ofBLOGWARS, a book about how political blogging changed elections. When politicians hear about their peers successfully using other media, he said, “you’re going to want to try it yourself.”

“When I first heard about Twitter, I couldn’t possibly come up with a use for it,” said David Perlmutter, professor of journalism at Kansas University and author of the book “Blog Wars.” “I thought, ‘Why would I want to alert everybody that I’m having a tuna sandwich?’ It seemed like something you didn’t need technology to do.” But Perlmutter is amazed at how Twitter has become what he calls “this phenomenon of utility. . .So much of our life now these days is fast-moving, fleeting, and that describes Twitter.”



By Alex Parker


By Lisa Zagaroli


Twitter was also in the news lately in how it can scoop the news. The Hudson river plane crash was tweeted by a witness who took pictures on his cell phone–and beat all the professional press to the story.


Update on Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 04:45PM by Registered Commenterdavid.d.perlmutter

More and more businesses are using Twitter for employees and customers. A recent USA Today article talks about Twitter and travel agencies. One travel agent compared Twitter to an “information booth.” Another (in the comments) calls it a “mini-megaphone.”

Originally posted January 20, 2009 at PolicyByBlog

Texting Ourselves to Death?

 [Image: Scott Frederick Starrett]


I hosted a conference and co-wrote the report for a summit of experts on the TOP TRANSPORTATION & ENERGY ISSUES FACING THE NATION* sponsored by The University of Kansas Transportation Research Institute (KU TRI), presented by The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics and theUniversity of Kansas School of Engineering, and funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Research and Innovation Technology Administration & Federal Highway Administration.

Our main point was that America has tried many times to create a national transportation policy over the last century, with the latest and most comprehensive attempt in 2000-2001. None of these ventures was conceived or executed at the presidential level save possibly President Eisenhower’s “National Defense Highway System.” Now humankind confronts interrelated crises of energy and transportation in a rapidly changing world where we must deal with spiking petroleum prices, decaying bridges, growing congestion in all modes, an aging and inattentive driver population, a shortage of adequately trained transportation engineers, and the diverse ramifications of global climate change. The next president and next Congress of the United States of America will need to tackle each of these challenges immediately. Their decisions will affect the fate of the species and the planet.

The summit then identified (a) a “top 9” list (see below) of the most pressing problems facing the nation and (b) a range of options for government and industry to consider. Some of the items on the menu of options reflected disagreement on courses of action, but everyone agreed that for each of these crises, America needs to take some actions immediately.










The issue that was most obviously related to online social-interactive media and new technological gadgetry was DRIVER DISTRACTION.

What we found was that despite the many safety features and improvements in modern vehicular transport and roadways, about ten times more Americans die each year in car accidents than have been killed in the entire Iraq war. Many causes of roadway mayhem, such as drunk driving, are well publicized. But impairment due to alcohol or drugs is actually a subset of a much larger problem that is becoming a crisis that can affect the lives of any of us and cost the country immense sums in accidents and damage: driver distraction. A wave of research conducted at KU and other universities shows that our gadgets are, when used while driving, killing us.


Some numbers:

— Cell phone distraction—which likely is severely under-measured or recorded—officially causes some 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States each year. Driver distraction from other factors, both long-standing (children in the car) and recent (video screens in the driver’s view) are also a factor in roadway accidents. For example, cell phone users have been found to be 5.36 times more likely to get in an accident than undistracted drivers. The risk is about the same as for drivers with a 0.08% blood-alcohol level. In other words, the distractions associated with talking on a cell phone while driving are as or more debilitating than driving legally drunk.

— Talking on a cell phone while driving a car reduces attention in younger adults so that they have an average increase in accident risk of between 200 and 700%. The act of driving while talking on a cell phone is a classic example of a dual task. While on a cell phone, especially in the initial minutes of a conversation, a driver will be almost completely unaware of surrounding traffic.

— Driver distraction due to communications devices can be broken into two components: physical distraction and cognitive distraction. The physical distraction of holding the phone while driving has been shown to have very little effect on driving performance. Cognitive distractions, on the other hand—caused by the conversation rather than the physical factors—have been found to be the primary source of driver distraction. Even with these findings, drivers and legislators tend to focus primarily on physical distraction. [Read more…]

Perlmutter at Jeremy Taylor Show

I was a guest on the Jeremy Taylor Show on 1320 am radio in Lawrence. Our planned topic was “What will happen next in politics and media and our personal lives after the very prominent rise of online social-interactive media in campaign 2008?”

Among my points:

  • It will be interesting to see how the Obama administration uses OSIM in governing and gaining support for policies, programs, and projects in a different or similar way than they did for winning votes and raising money for the presidential election. I suggested that it would be a mistake to overdo OSIM–that is, if all those who had given their text message address to the Obama campaign received a note from him daily, there would be a significant turn-off of interest and enthusiasm. Like all weapons in politics or war, OSIM outreach must be used prudently.
  • Second, referring to my previous post on a “slow blogging movement,” I wonder whether we will reach a saturation effect, with instantaneousness, interactivity, and the confusion of information and misinformation that is sweeping over us. Just as for the “slow food” or “localivore” movement, will people want to reduce the amount of stuff being thrown at them and seek out higher quality and even slower venues of news and political information?

Since Mr. Taylor and I are both World War II buffs, we also spared a few moments to discuss the movie “Valkyrie.” I noted that it is intriguing to speculate how much history would have been changed if some of the new communications technologies existed in previous eras. In the Valkyrie case, imagine the impact of instant messaging on the plot to kill Hitler!

Actually, you could make a case that there was text-messaging in the Third Reich….


Originally posted January 31, 2009 at PolicyByBlog

The End of Geoprivacy

Ever have the feeling that someone is spying on you?

Today, it’s more likely that you are broadcasting enough information thatanyone can spy on you.

In the most recent issue of Wired magazine, freelance writer Mathew Honan recounts his “I am here”adventures of a “3-week experiment of living la vida local.” Using all the new technology (software and hardware) especially iPhone apps, he demonstrates how easy it is to be constantly monitoring your environment electronically as well as for everybody to know where you are. For example, with the program WhoseHere, you can send your latitude and longitude location and instantly get responses from other people in the area. The responses, needless to say, range from “I’m looking for sex” to “Really great coffee shop.”

Other interesting revelations: “Because iPhones embed geodata into photos that users upload to Flickr or Picasa, iPhone shots can be automatically placed on a map.” In other words, people will know exactly where you were when you took the picture. Interestingly, Honan concludes the article by describing how he almost got into a car accident because he was so busy getting “better location awareness” through his various geo gadgets that he didn’t notice a car (a Prius, of course!) stopping short in front of him. He concludes that technology cannot replace “look[ing] around the old-fashioned way” and keeping a “sense of place.”

One such app, Google Latitude, is already occasioning controversy.

Let’s call this the question of geoprivacy. [Read more…]

Perlmutter at Kansas Governor’s Public Health Conference on Social Media

David D. Perlmutter was a keynote speaker at the Kansas Governor’s Public Health Conference in Wichita. His two topics were: “Marketing Health Information: The Challenge of Online Social-Interactive Media” and “How to Tell the Story of Your Success Via Online Social-Interactive Media”

Originally posted May 5, 2009 at PolicyByBlog

Perlmutter on “Facebooking for the Tenure Track”

My essay on “Facebooking for the Tenure Track” appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, September 4, 2009. [online]

Originally posted September 19, 2009 at PolicyByBlog