Spectators and Participants

In his book “Air Guitar,” cultural critic Dave Hickey made a distinction between two types of individuals in the realm of spectatorship: the Spectators and the Participants. This distinction can be applied to the world of Twitter, where the behavior of users aligns with Hickey’s characterization.

According to Hickey, Spectators tend to align themselves with authority and established norms. They do not have the time or inclination to make decisions for themselves, and instead, they seek out spaces that have been confirmed by institutional and corporate blessings. These spaces are often marked by blue checkmarks, professors, and celebrity endorsements. By associating with these sources of authority, Spectators derive a sense of sanctioned pleasure or virtue that makes them feel secure.

In contrast, Participants do not find this sense of security appealing. They do not lose interest in a topic once it has been accredited by a respected source, as they always assume there is something better out there. Participants continue searching for the next best thing that aligns with their personal agendas, even if it means rejecting established norms and authorities. They persist in their search, and are not easily swayed by corporate endorsements or blue checkmarks.

While it is possible that Participants may be wrong in their rejection of established norms and authorities, true Participants remain committed to their search. Unlike Spectators, who must be lured into following a trend, Participants actively seek out new ideas and perspectives. They are motivated by their own curiosity and desire to uncover something new and exciting.

In conclusion, Hickey’s distinction between Spectators and Participants provides an insightful lens through which to view the behavior of Twitter users. While Spectators align themselves with authority and established norms, Participants reject these sources of security and seek out new and exciting ideas. While both groups may have valid reasons for their behavior, it is the Participants who drive the conversation forward and push the boundaries of what is possible.

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