Hashtags have become such a common practice these days that people have started using them outside of their intended purpose. People use them in text messages, chats, songs, and advertisements.
As a semiotician, I find this very interesting. It suggests to me that hashtags started out with relatively uncomplicated semantic value, but have become a quasi-linguistic phenomenon with much richer meaning. Much in the way that human beings will, purposely or without planned direction, reshape the connotations, denotations, and forms of words (see my earlier post linking to Dictionary.com’s slideshows), it seems that we’ve expanded the meaning of hashtags. While for me, the word “hashtag” (signifier) denotatively still refers to the visual pound sign # (signified), the connotations are much richer. The sign act (if I may so put it) that we engage in when using this signifier and signified has come to include socio-cultural phenomena that are linked to the use of hashtags: The frivolity or grassroots empowerment, depending on how you see it, of the social media trend; the age-old debate about whether the latest crop of young people is ruining the world or saving it (I frequently cite Socrates’ distaste for the burgeoning fashion of writing as an example of how far back this goes). Perhaps the hashtag has become a visual, verbal, and experiential metaphor for our experience(s) of digital life, as intertwined generations, cultures, and societies?
Now I’m extra excited for the documentary Life After Digital, airing on TVO at 9PM Wednesday, December 17!
Twitter announced late Thursday that it’s reversing a controversial change to its ‘block’ function that it made only hours earlier. The change allowed users to view and interact with tweets from a person who blocked them, among other differences.
In a blog post about the block change, Twitter said the reversal came “after receiving feedback from many users.” Many Twitter users were incensed over the changes, which some argued made it more difficult to prevent harassment on the platform. The hashtag #restoretheblock became a popular rallying point for those opposed to the block change.
— Joshua Topolsky (@joshuatopolsky) December 13, 2013
In response to support of Twitter blocking, been told to pay for app, leave, make account private. Hell no. I have same rights as harassers.
— Margarita Noriega (@margafret) December 13, 2013
Every single person I’ve seen that’s OK…
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Update: Twitter has reverted the changes to blocking functionality that it made earlier today. After the changes, an outpouring of negative user feedback appeared on Twitter, blogs and other services. We hear Twitter executives began hashing this one out in internal discussions almost immediately after negative sentiment started to rise and Reuters reported that an emergency meeting was held to discuss the changes.
Twitter obviously made these changes for a reason, and both statements given to us by Twitter and things that we’ve heard indicate that there were many requests made to eliminate the ‘blocked’ notice. Specific accounts of reprisals in response to a blocked person being notified of being blocked spurred this change.
But at this point it appears that at least some re-thinking of the feature is in order, and Twitter appears to be choosing to roll these changes back for now until it can come up…
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