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Will tweeting kill Schrödinger’s Cat and other questions

Published on 16 May 2014
Updated on 05 April 2024

Will tweeting kill Schrödinger’s Cat[1] ?

Does tweeting a meeting or a conference change the meeting?

Closed captioning of meetings changed them: a searchable verbatim transcript became available, and speakers became aware that the spoken word now had a reliable means of verification. Did that change their willingness to conjecture and brainstorm in the search for consensus? Did it change the relationship between the spoken word and the written word, bringing them a bit closer together? I think it did.

Now my real question: Does tweeting a meeting change its path? Tweeting can allow two-way communication, and instant input into a meeting, facilitating a ‘snapshot’ kind of remote participation (especially if a leak tweets out of a closed meeting). But does knowing that a meeting is being tweeted change the speaker’s input? And if so, how?

Do speakers plant a few tweets in their interventions, giving them a bit of control over the dissemination of their ideas? Do they direct comments to the Twitter audience?

If you think Twitter cannot affect a meeting, take a look at this slide from Impact Of Social Media On Meetings & Events, a presentation from the 2008 Incentive Works conference (Metro Centre, Toronto):


The Audience is in control

  • Interview with 23-year old billionaire Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Neither he nor the person interviewing him were prepared.

  • As the unfocussed topics meandered for 45 minutes, the audience grew increasingly restless.

  • Tweets about how ‘lame’ the session was started flying in the hall (via mobile).

  • ‘Zuck you suck.’

  • As the social media took over, the crowd started shouting out questions on their own.

  • The session went off the rails from there.


Source: Impact Of Social Media On Meetings & Events


Feedback from participants is instant… and social. And mobile. And public.

A recent Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC)[2] meeting transcript shows several speaker references to Twitter, which offer a lighter moment to the meeting, but also may indicate more serious nuances of social media, including a comment by chair Peter Major:

‘ Personally, I find the proposal from India extremely interesting to mention the transformation of the team, of the Internet team.  Naturally, we never — in 2005 we didn’t hear about Twitter.  We had hardly any news about social network, and there are lots of other things we have heard about that transform not only our lives, private lives; but, eventually, it has some impact on our meeting as well.’

Other quotes from the meeting transcript, and a sampling of tweets are pasted below. What do you think? Could tweeting kill Schrödinger’s Cat[3]?

‘The alternative text, we have not discussed that.  I’m at least designated as part of that group.  So I oppose that, and all of a sudden, Twitter starts to work as opposed to a text, unfounded and unfriendly saying that.  I don’t want to have the same discussions.  That’s number one.’

‘Let us, chairman, walk towards each other, not criticize each other.  Not Twitter each other.  Criticize each other is not good.  Destructive.  Really.’

‘Once again, we would like to know would somebody coming on the table speaking on his own or on her own behalf, what is his role and responsibility with respect to another person speaking on behalf of one billion 300 million people in the world.  They don’t have the same voice.

‘ And they should not Twitter against that one.  This is the situation.  Something we cannot change is this term, within their respective roles and responsibilities.’

 ‘It doesn’t mean that we oppose democratizing.  I hope it’s not going to Twitter.’

‘ I still can’t press it.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I appreciate the contribution made by Iran, and I truly do appreciate something that would be short enough to fit in Twitter.  So it gives me great pleasure to see that.’ 

‘I like the — you know, like others also short and concise proposals, irrespective of Twitter.’

‘Can you send it electronically?

 ‘Electronically, I have to (indiscernible) my finger to take.  Sorry.  Excuse me.

 ‘No Twitter, please.  All the Twitter in the back, don’t send our offices that we have a problem with the finger.  Please.’

[ Laughter ]

‘ I don’t want that tweeting.’

 [ Applause ]

Sample of live tweets from the meeting 2 May 2014:


#WGEC Member State asks “all the Twitter in the back” not to tweet about his finger wrangling issues. Now he’s just playing with us!

#WGEC room is now redrafting the written component of the Chair’s oral report (previously known as the “draft report”).

#WGEC Tech rep: Welcomes short rec txt from Member State. Welcomes concise proposals, irrespective of Twitter. (Twitter FTW!)

#WGEC Civil society rep: appreciates any recommendation txt that’s short enough to tweet. (Twitter is the winner of this meeting by a mile!)

Sooooo many references to use of Twitter in #WGEC today….

#WGEC Member State: we have 2 b positive, constructive. Not criticise each other. Not Twitterise each other (Entire room turns & looks @ me)



@avri appreciates any short statements that would fit in Twitter #WGEC


@fermalo 2

#twiplomacy RT @sgdickinson: #WGEC Member State finishes his intervention with (direct quote): “I hope it’s not going to Twitter”.

RT @sgdickinson: Sooooo many references to use of Twitter in #WGEC today — Don’t be intimidated. Just stick to facts and be polite (as ever)










[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/google-doodle/10237347/Schrodingers-Cat-explained.html

[2] More information about the meeting is available at https://dig.watch/events/cstd-wg-enhanced-cooperation-wgec

[3] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/google-doodle/10237347/Schrodingers-Cat-explained.html


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