Seeing the Forest for the Trees

While conducting research on Twitter this week in regards to a story idea about the cooperation of conservation organizations towards a common goal, the focus on one article continued to resurface from multiple users.  The article, “Decline In Hunters Threatens How U.S. Pays For Conservation,” by Nathan Rott for National Public Radio, was actually the subject of a tweet from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership I had retweeted and posted to my Facebook page a week earlier.  The compelling article gives a gloomy forecast for the future of hunter participation as the average hunter is aging to the point of retirement from the tradition with less interest from younger generations, and, because of that fact, details an even more troubling uncertainty for the future of conservation in this country.  However, what grabbed my attention this time around was the wide range of opinions I was finding from Twitter users as their tweeted lead argumentation into the link for the article.

I began to bookmark the tweets, and soon I was so intrigued by the arguments I found that I ran a search for links to the article and began to gather an even larger sample.  What I found presented a stunning array of ethos, pathos, and logos in the discourse.  Each of these rhetors provided their own set of suppositions and reasoning.  I didn’t look past their tweets into any specific responses – I didn’t have to – the tweets themselves provided the commentary on the subject of the article at the first level of interpretation and argumentation.  After reviewing and analyzing my sample, and taking another step back, I began to ask myself how all these opinions could possibly be digested.  This led me to relate this to the overwhelming amount of data thrust at us daily, not only through the genre of Twitter, but exponentially across all forms of media in this age of information overload.  Indeed, by the assemblage of this sample, one could gather an extensive interpretation of the original article without ever having to bother to click on the link to the original argument.  Therefore, I wondered if all the rhetors in my sample had actually taken the time to read the article, or if, in the interest of time, they had formulated their opinion based on their own set of suppositions and then tried to further their argument supposing their followers would do the same.

The rhetors who seemed the least argumentative as a whole were the news organizations, conservation organizations, and state agencies that seemed to exude the supposition that their followers were already painfully aware of the facts in the article, or they would just let the article speak for itself.  Other conservationists and journalists seemed to ask what the article was asking, or expand on the alternative funding methods suggested in the article.  Hunting and outdoors business oriented rhetors used it to either bolster their cause or to seemingly argue for support from other outdoors enthusiasts.  From there, specific agendas from common individual users flared out to sprawl over a diverse set of arguments.  This is where the analysis became almost baffling to me.  Here was a large set of first level interpretations of the article that now began to spew out like vomit hitting the floor, or, if you prefer, envision the spread of the mushroom cloud as it enters the upper reaches of the atmosphere.  The polarization of opinions seemed like a microcosm of the world we live in today.  Some chose thoughtfully to stipulate there own personal plea along the lines of the original rhetor’s argument.  Others chose to quote powerful statements from the original rhetor to reiterate the argument.  Others chose to relate details in the original argument to their own local or even international concerns.  Others chose to relate the facts of the article to their own personal agendas in extremely loose relationship to the original argument.  And still others appeared to gather the entire basis for their argument simply from the headline of the original rhetor’s article.

I felt compelled to gather them all in one place, and present them as a whole in a mosaic of opinions as inspired by the original argument for our dwindling support for the stewardship of wilderness.  Below you will find the large sample I collected.  In order to present a uniform sample that could be quickly distinguished by an identifying trait, I chose to only include tweets that used the lead image from the original article.  In order to attempt to maintain an objectively balanced presentation of the following gallery while attempting to present it in the most appealing display, it is set up as a random order tiled mosaic which will randomly bring different images of the tweets to the forefront each time the page is refreshed.  Therefore, I would encourage you to refresh the page several times in order to illuminate and gather the diverse range of opinions from the individual rhetors.

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