* a "backchannel" at a conference
* a communications channel
* a way of organizing information
* an activism and/or marketing campaign
* a word in an emerging langauge
* a tradition
* a tribe
-- me, Cognitive evolution and revoultion, part 1: #polc09 and a #diversityfail, April 2009
For several months before Politics 2009. I had immersed myself in Twitter, activism, and diversity, workting with Tracy Viselli and a remarkably diverse and brilliant group of progressive, feminist, and womanist bloggers to create the #p2 hashtag and working with my brother Greg on Lessons for Skittles for Poets and Activists. It was an exciting time, with Twitter at the epicenter of the online activism. So after Judith Donath's short opening talk, my equally-brief presentation was optimistic about hashtags' potential for collaboration and empowerment ...
After which the discussion forked and neatly illustrated the point I was making. White male voices in the room, diverse voices on the hashtag. Techological triumphalism in the room, questions about access and power on the hashtag. Action research for the win!
Diaspora *'s got hashtags too.
Here's some early thoughts.
The post I just made is an example of them functioning as an information structuring mechanism and communication channel. Within a few minutes after I asked it, Genius Musings had replied. As the community expands, more and more people are likely to start hanging out watching key hashtags like #questions, #help, #bug and so on. It's an easy way to help Diaspora succeed that doesn't require specialized skills or using Get Satisfaction.
Just like Twitter, Diaspora doesn't have any kind of dictionary for the words in this new language, so there's often a lot of ambiguity. Wthashtag and other sites filled this role on Twitter*. So far, there isn't anything equivalent on Diaspora, at least not as far as I know. Of course there will always be variants and some tags mean different things in different language, but still, it's the kind of thing where a community-run wiki could be very helpful.
Naesk's post also illustrates hashtag-as-tribe. Occupy protesters and supporters on Diaspora want to be able to find each other and work together, and the hashtag's a logical nexus. Diaspora's functionality, while still fairly raw, is richer than Twitter here: for example, you can identify with a tribe by following it or including a hashtag on your profile. And at least theoretically it seems like it should be possible to to get the equivalent of a "private tribe" by using hashtags together with aspects.
So Diaspora hashtags certainly have a lot of possibilities. Perhaps it's time for me to start working on the long-awaited part 2 of Cognitive Evolution and Revolution?
* although Twitter eventually shut down Wthashtag -- to better serve their customers, of course