Minnesota 2020 Journal: Curating Minnesota
Sweden has a national Twitter account, @Sweden. They started a program, Curators of Sweden, turning the account over to regular Swedes, a week at a time, to tweet about Swedish stuff.
Minnesota has a lot of Swedish-descended people. Minnesota’s culture is deeply informed by our state’s Swedish ancestors and their hard working, common sense, serve the community good view of the world. Maybe we could have a Twitter account, too, taking turns sharing what it means to be a Minnesotan.
This past winter, Sweden launched a democracy initiative. They’ve entrusted the @Sweden Twitter account to a different Swede for seven days. The Curators of Sweden explain that each writer “recommends things to do and places to see, sharing diverse opinions, and ideas along the way.
After that, someone else does the same—but differently. "Follow all nine million of us. Welcome to Sweden.”
The requirements are fairly basic. Curators are nominated by other Swedes and then screened. Curators post in English so adequate English language skill is required. However, as Swedes value language learning, placing a particular emphasis on English, that barrier isn’t as substantial as asking Americans to post in, well, any language other than English.
The program is not without its bumps. Trusting someone to be themselves means that curators are being themselves, warts and all. Sometimes, their jokes fall flat. Humor is contextual. One person’s edginess and sly insight is another’s horrified outrage and objection.
New media is a powerful tool for democracy. Communication technologies are shrinking distance between people and reducing the number of communication gatekeepers. Any one of us can communicate with anyone and everyone. Having something useful to say is a different matter.
Twitter is an online social networking company. It allows users to post text-style messages of no more than 140 characters. Twitter has facilitated the growth of microblogs. While the character limit challenges users, less is usually more particularly in comparison with the longer blog format.
A well-written, thoughtful, engaging, 3,000 word essay is a wonderful thing and a genuine joy to read. But speaking from experience, crafting a well-written, thoughtful, engaging 3,000 word essay—or even a 300 word blog post—requires real work. It takes time to organize, draft, rewrite, edit, edit some more and polish. 140 characters, on the other hand, truly demands—and rewards—brevity.
I love, for example, Thomas Jefferson’s observation about democracy and the minority’s voice. “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.” It exceeds, however, the 140 character Twitter maximum. Consequently, Jefferson might have tweeted, “Majority’s will depends on strong minority rights,” with the #democracy hash tag. It’s not quite as elegant as Jefferson’s original but it communicates his point.
I trust Minnesotans to share the official state Twitter account. Strictly speaking, we don’t have one at the moment. “@Minnesota” is currently suspended by Twitter but Minnesota’s state government uses a wide variety of agency-specific Twitter handles. But, let’s not be sidetracked by that detail.
I trust Minnesotans to tell Minnesota’s story in a series of 140 character posts. We’re a large state. In population terms, we’re about half the size of Sweden. Geographically, northern and southern Minnesota couldn’t be more different. Our cultural and ethnic diversity keeps growing. Consequently, we’d need lots and lots of Minnesotans to truly tell Minnesota’s story.
More information leads, I’ve always believed, to better, more informed outcomes. Isolation reinforces rather than relieves prejudice. As a policy matter, schools, affordable healthcare, transportation infrastructure and job growth move Minnesota forward. But, policy values require broad engagement and on-going communication. Telling Minnesota’s story in 140 characters or less highlights opportunity and need.
Let’s follow Sweden’s example and give the Curators of Minnesota a try. I’ll go first, proving that even 30 years later, the southwestern Minnesota farm boy remains a central part of my being. “Beautiful morning. Might rain. Good for the crops.”