Twitter, on the other hand, is more often in the position of simply applying a brake, or fiddling with a knob that turns between “Less Twitter” and “More Twitter,” with “Twitter” defined not by Twitter itself, but by hundreds of millions of people who will simply not log off, lest they lose their chance to seize the moment.
On a basic level, this is due to how Twitter works. “Twitter has preserved an architecture for publics to emerge around any issue, including how Twitter works,” said Prof. Burgess, who works in the Queensland University of Technology’s digital media research centre. “It makes it difficult for the company to implement any major changes because there’s this really active mobilised user community,” she said, “especially when they don’t seem to emerge out of user practises or norms, and instead seem to just mimic features of other platforms three years later.”
Prof. Burgess and Prof. Baym argue in their book that Twitter has been transitioning for nearly a decade away from its “open innovation” paradigm — the one in which Twitter, awed by its users, turns the knob toward “More Twitter” — and into a terminally advertising-driven one, where “user metrics need to be contained and controlled.” If an openly top-down Twitter cannot function, the company can at least ensure that it is monetized.
Of course, Twitter is free to do whatever it wants. Its collective users frequently humble it, but it also frequently disappoints them. (In some cases, “more Twitter” is synonymous with harassment.) It’s also a profitable company that makes billions of dollars from this process; what Twitter users insist on doing collectively isn’t an awesome mystery, it’s just surprisingly specific and, as it turns out, extremely sticky.