The @Sweden Twitter experiment goes awry but is still fascinating

The @Sweden Twitter experiment goes awry but is still fascinating

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Since December 2011, Sweden has been part of a fascinating Twitter experiment. The tourist authority and the Swedish institute developed a simple Twitter strategy – they would claim the @Sweden handle and then let a different Swede represent the country on Twitter every single week.

A fascinating experience. We’ve seen students talk about their days, mums share their experiences and people talk about what it really means to be Swedish and living in Sweden in 2012. The Twitter campaign has slowly grown and been exciting to watch. A brave move – letting any member of the public take over the nation’s Twitter account for a week and say what they will. Even more brave when many people are Tweeting in English, a foreign language.

After six months of fascinating and illuminating Swedish people taking the helm, this week things went a little awry. The person chosen to represent the nation in the social network is at best a little odd, and at worst hugely offensive. From strange messages and questions about Jews, to odd captions for photos. These messages perhaps came across as much naive and bizarre as they did purposefully offensive, but it is certainly not the kind of discussions that the people behind the account intended.

However it has proven to be even more fascinating than any of the previous contributors. Here is a women from a town in Sweden that has never met a Jewish person, that makes awkward observations or attempts at humour that others may find offensive. We are learning more about the diversity of Sweden from this account that we would if it were a blander set of officially authorised updates.

The worst thing that @Sweden could do would be to cancel the account, or even make it much more restrictive. We are learning a lot about real people, what they think and what they say. We are learning about the diversity of people in Sweden and uncovering that some are not as sensible as others. This in itself is interesting. Of course, the team behind @Sweden might not want many more weeks like this week, but allowing people to talk and not censoring unless it is truly offensive is both brave, and fascinating.

Photo credit: Swedish Flag by Susanne Davidson