v6.2.3 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Twitter Maxims of Cooperation

The other day I saw a friend of mine (and I hope it's OK to pick on you for a bit :-) ) who had a twitter (and Facebook) post like this one (content is made up):

I am really #psyched about this #awesome #content on this #fabulous #topic that I am #super #interested in. This is #seriously #awesome.
My friend, if you are reading this I am not picking on you, I am only using your twitter post as a jump off point to talk about the excessive use of hashtags in twitter posts by many of the twitterati :-)

Back in my days as a linguistics student I remember Grice's Maxims of Cooperation (or conversation). Grice's Maxims in short are:

  • The maxim of quantity: where one tries to be as informative as one possibly can, and gives as much information as is needed, and no more.
  • The maxim of quality: where one tries to be truthful, and does not give information that is false or that is not supported by evidence.
  • The maxim of relation: where one tries to be relevant, and says things that are pertinent to the discussion.
  • The maxim of manner: when one tries to be as clear, as brief, and as orderly as one can in what one says, and where one avoids obscurity and ambiguity.

I was sort of joking the other day when I said to my friend (also a linguist) that these #hashtag #laden #tweets probably violate one or more of Grice's Maxims of cooperation :-)  Today, having a look see at the maxims again to remind myself I can probably argue that these types of posts do violate all four maxims :-)

#tweets with #excessive #hashtags #violate #GricesMaxims in the #following #ways

  • The maxim of quantity: By trying to be more informative and including more #hashtags, you actually end up being less informative because your post lacks a clear focus 
  • The maxim of quality: I would argue that even though deceit is not intended, by including way too many hashtags in your post, search engines grab your tweet as a relevant post in some other category that it is not meant to be.
  • The maxim of relation: Clearly, way too many hashtags are not relevant to the discussion.
  • The maxim of manner: Too many hashtags make it so that the post isn't brief or obscure.  Sure you are limited to 140 characters in a tweet, however too many hashtags do lower the readability of the text thus making it less clear and harder to decode.

What do you think?  How would you apply Grice's maxims to tweets or other web communication? :-)
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