Can Twitter Communities Prevent Context Collapse?

Casey Newton, writing on The Verge:

One of the most useful concepts for understanding why social networks so often drive us to despair is context collapse: taking multiple audiences with different norms, standards, and levels of knowledge, and herding them all into a single digital space to coexist. Predictably, this regularly leads to conflict — and, at the scale of an entire country, may even make us more polarized.


But what if you could build a version of Twitter that kept out the Reply Guys and the sea lions, and included only people who had some shared context around a subject or interest? That’s the idea between the company’s launch of Communities, a way to create semi-public groups where only members can participate in conversations.

Twitter is my favorite social network. I learn more — and have more meaningful interactions — there than in Facebook or LinkedIn, the only other two networks I’m on.

But part of the reason I get value from Twitter is that I’ve learned not to take things there personally or too seriously. I’ve also learned to tune out people spewing toxicity — i.e., to lower the Sturm und Drang. This new Twitter feature sounds like a great way to increase the signal-to-noise ratio in the network.

That said, context collapse can also be an advantage. I like seeing thoughts from people I follow from different fields. For example, I follow lots of economists and designers, and enjoy seeing the contrast (and occasional overlap) between the two in my timeline.

So, I hope that Twitter implements this feature in a way that allows us to dip into focused topics but also enables the serendipitous collisions afforded by a mixed timeline. Much comes down to conceptual models (how Twitter’s designers structure this place to enable certain types of interactions) and how those models manifest as UI. The architecture of information!

How Twitter’s communities could bring context back – The Verge