Saturday 4 May 2013

Twitter and EVP Spam: Some Notes

This is not one of my usual blog posts as I am not documenting or giving advance warning of anything, and perhaps it marks a change of approach in the way I use this particular medium. However, it seems like the best platform to set out some observations and remarks - after which, I am sure normal service will be restored.

Over the past couple of months I have become increasingly fascinated by a type of Twitter Spam that seems to resemble the EVP messages received by Latvian psychologist Konstantin Raudive. These take the form of tweets received from accounts that belong to what I can only describe as ‘non-people’: the most obvious clues are that these suddenly turn up unannounced in your list of followers with no corresponding notification of their status anywhere else in your account. The handle and the picture of this new ‘follower’ rarely match (male name with picture of female being an obvious example) and the short self-description often includes contradictory statements (guitars are my life, guitars and finding myself, sports bikes, bacon etc...).

If you examine their profile a little more closely, these accounts usually have just 22 tweets (occasionally 20 or 21 but I have yet to see one with more than 22). They are usually worth examining, however, as that is where the strangeness really starts. Often the tweets take the form of words in unconnected strings (and I but have but when we but I never but) or selections of quotations from established names, but which have been put through some kind of weird syntactic blender (he need regarding knowledge, such as thirst for money increases previously while using buy it - laurence sterne) - or finally they form themselves into the kind of cryptic arrangement of images that Raudive would have instantly recognized as emanating from  another world  (organic mathematicians training it carefully).

At present I am not inclined to draw any conclusions about this phenomenon one way or the other - I do, however, have some thoughts as to their origin: one is that these ‘non people’ started out as being one of the millions of artificially generated followers which were originally intended to enhance the popularity of some corporate enterprise or media sensation. However, they have somehow broken free of their lonely non-existent crowd and are now wandering the Twitter-sphere in search of someone to follow and have fallen into your orbit - or it may be that they have somehow replicated themselves and it is the digital echo of their non-presence that has now decided to follow you. One aspect of their behaviour that supports this assumption is that a ‘non-person’ will sometimes attach itself to a conversation you are having with one of your real followers, as if they were somehow hovering on the edge of your exchange - shy but anxious to take part. Their contribution would, I suspect, turn out to be entirely unsettling if it were allowed to take place.

One thing is clear to me at this stage: just as the digital spectres that haunt architectural renderings of new buildings find themselves occupying a non-existent space that is barely contained within two dimensions, so these digital non-people that haunt Twitter are a new form of being that do not inhabit the same dimension as us. Do they have anything to say to us? That, I would suggest, is another matter for another time. Let me close by noting once again, however, that it is only through examining how a network is distorted that we will get a true sense of how it behaves. Spam already tells us more than we want to know about ourselves: the EVP Spam coming from (or perhaps through) Twitter may take that uncomfortable understanding to a whole new level.


Unknown said...

Have had a few of these myself. I enjoy the cut-up poetry of the 'tweets', however, I feel that something sinister is just around the corner.

James Riley said...

Different recording and reproducing media each seem to get, or indeed generate, their own EVP: tape recorders, televisions, telephones, photocopiers, fax machines, PCs and now Twitter. Is this a panoply of different, coincidental voices or a recurrent, multi-platform 'intelligence'?

It would be interesting to see if any of the 'non-people' Twitter accounts clocked in at 23 followers.