For a country with a population of 1.2 billion, until July 2013, India had around 20 million Twitter users (roughly 18% of India’s population), connecting with each other, sharing information and joining like-minded people on Twitter. Capturing this mode of information and its flow, is Twittamentary India, a documentary film that traces Indians who use the medium to connect with journalists and politicians and vice versa.
Twittamentary India is an extended version of Twittamentary, a short film where Chinese filmmaker Tan Siok Siok followed a group of Twitter users, as they shared their experiences on the micro-blogging website. In this extended version, Siok has joined hands with Avinash Kalla and Bhaskar Pant to tell the Indian side of the story.
Kalla, a self-confessed tweet addict and journalist, says, “Our idea was to see how accessible and interactive were the people’s representatives and those who keep an eye on them. The yardstick was interactivity; we reached out to a majority of journalists and politicos and those who responded are a part of the series.” The result is a series of interviews, where several Tweeples, including politicians and journalists, sharing their experiences and anecdotes of sharing information on this platform.
Surprisingly, filming this crowd-funded project wasn’t easy, as Pant recollects many politicians and journalists who are the so-called ‘Twilebrities’ never responded to their tweets. “Many questioned our intentions too, like who is funding us, and how are we making money out of this?” shares Pant.
So, why Twitter? Siok replies, “Twitter has given people an unprecedented access to politicians and journalists. Journalists too have a new means of crowd sourcing news leads and building a fan base for their stories by shedding insight into the news gathering process. Twitter has become the medium for breaking a news story. That is because it’s an open platform, which allows for sharing of information and images in real time. Anyone who happens to be on the scene of a breaking news story can become a ‘citizen journalist’ by capturing a moment and sharing the visuals on Twitter.”
But the open platform comes with its share of problems, including a lack of accountability from its users, and the risk of sharing wrong information, believes Siok. “Misinformation can spread just as quickly as information on Twitter. Also, fans on Twitter can easily turn into haters who harass journalists and try to prevent them from publishing a story,” she adds, which was an issue highlighted in the original Twittamentary.
But while Siok’s film talked about the use of Twitter in daily life in the USA and how some people attained 15 minutes of fame or became case studies, the Indian edition, says Kalla, talks specifically about the dialogue that Twitter creates between people, politicians and journalists. “It’s more specific,” he sums up.