Question: Why does Twitter appeal to you?
Margaret Atwood: Twitter is a very interesting phenomenon because you get all kinds of things going on and it’s not just one thing. You have people writing Haiku on it. You have people yelling at other people and they probably should realize that Twittering is publishing. And you can end up with a libel suit on their hands. That hasn’t quite sunk in, in some areas, but it’s true; so is blogging.
So people are interacting in these unprecedented sorts of ways that were not possible before the invention of social media like this. And we’re in the early stages of it. The good sides of it are, for instance, if you want the answers to a question and you put it out there, you’ll get the answers. Some of them may be wrong, but you’ll get a whole bunch of answers and then you can then sift through them and see which ones fit your question.
If you want help with something, and people often send out cries for help for their various causes over Twitter, it works with that too. So there are all kinds of good uses for it and everything has a dark side; there are bad uses for it too. It doesn’t depend on the technology, it depends on the users, but the technology does facilitate a kind of instant communication that can just go viral and become a new story.
So Twitter is now part of the news. Twitter is not part of people making news. And all of the news outlets have got their blogs and online versions and Twitter feeds.
Question: What makes for a good tweet?
Margaret Atwood: There’s all kinds of good tweets. Some of them are just people replying to other people’s questions. Sometimes you get a joke going. For instance during the Canadian Olympics, the Canadians were saying, “own the podium,” and I put out something that said, “Oh, it’s a brash to say... it’s a bit un-Canadian, it’s a bit brash to say, 'own the podium,' what do you suggest?” And the Twitter folks piled all these pretty hilarious suggestions that they could follow by a hash tag that said, '@podium.' So they were saying things like, “A podium for me meant the podium, “Maybe squeeze over a bit so I can just snuggle up to the podium.” So they went on like that for a while. And right now, we seem to be proposing a turnip for the Prime Minister due to a remark made in an article saying, “I would vote for a turnip if it were transparent, accountable, listened to people, and wasn’t Parliamentary Democrat.” So the turnip is now under some pressure to become a write-in candidate or possibly form its own party. But being a vegetable, it’s taking a bit of time to think this over.
Meanwhile, we are learning a bit about it, this turnip, its likes and dislikes. And it did go to a publishing lunch today to discuss its book deal.
He’s not usually this spiffy-looking. He put on his special New York outfit to go to the publishing lunch. You can see it looks a bit like a cabbage, but that’s what’s in this season for turnips. And he did have a nice lunch and I think he’s going to my reading and interview tonight at the the 92nd Street Y and I think he’ll be in Portland, Oregon talking to Ursula Le Guin, and I think he’s going to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where he hopes to meet with Stephen King. I shouldn’t say "he" because he doesn’t actually have a gender. I should say, "it." He's an all round candidate.
Interviewed by Max Miller