Monday, February 20, 2017

Creating in 140 Characters

“Unyielding and obsessed young man from St. Louis Missouri creates social network to connect individuals beyond confines of geographic barriers”

Within the 140 character constraint of his own creation, Jack Dorsey can be described as articulated in the above composition. Twitter, a social network online, was created in San Francisco in 2006 as the brainchild of Jack Dorsey, St. Louis Native. @jack was the first ever twitter account activated for social updates.


The goal of this website was to connect individuals and their location, activity and interests all over the world. Inspired by the text message, this communication form is instantaneous and can be received on a cell phone or internet accessible device. However, there are limits to the user’s activity. Twitter is designed for fast information sharing, and thus, not bogged down with verbosity. Tweets are restricted to 140 characters so that the thoughts and statements shared are as concise as possible.

Creator, Jack Dorsey, follows a familiar trope of creative genius: college dropout, relationship failure, minimalist, and chronic mis-communicator. Dorsey grew up in Missouri listening to the police radio transmitter bought by his father as a birthday gift. Enthralled by the fast pace and short nature of the emergency messages, he began to map where the emergency vehicles were in the city. When his map was well done, however, he realized that it was missing something critical: individuals.

Connections like these have been the pinnacle analogy in Dorsey’s life of creativity. His forearm displays an elongated “S” tattoo, representing a connection in his favorite fascinations: the f hole in a violin, the calculus symbol, and the collarbone. The connections that Dorsey saw everyday on public transit, and in colony systems, like ants, aspen trees and among people, became his obsession. These systems, “where you have a strong dependence on a network,” were the analogies with which Twitter became inspired.

Twitter is an example of analogical creativity, but more so an example of the creative Problem Solving described in Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius by Robert W. Weisberg. Dorsey saw a problem in the lack of interpersonal information provided by tech communications. He saw a need for individual specificity in his mapping software. The problem-solving process involved using analog frames to solve the problem. Dorsey used his understanding of other colony structures to create the Twitter social network to have global interpersonal messages.

Dorsey’s process was far from the instantaneous and “a ha” nature of Van Steenburgh and colleagues’ idea of creation. Whereas the authors of the study on insight saw a more instant idea formation, Dorsey pursued a lifelong theme of connecting with others to make his debut creating Twitter. Like Van Steenburgh’s frame of insight through incubation, however, Jack Dorsey was not always actively seeking a solution to his problem, but it was always present in the background.


Since being thrust into the public eye, Dorsey has been compared to tech creative titan, Steve Jobs. His incomplete college experience and innovative personality have caused a surface level comparison, though to his employees, he is nothing like Jobs. The founder has been described as “quiet” and several times has refused ideas because they are too “like apple.” However, his minimalism and bodily restriction (paleo dieting, exercise and simple dress) are more deeply similar to creative Gandhi, who practiced constant restraint. Unlike Gandhi, though, Dorsey has a net worth of roughly $1.28 billion dollars as of February 20, 2017. The lavish lifestyle he and his girlfriend live in San Francisco has been criticized as counter to the original idea of his site’s design: simplicity and efficiency.

Dorsey, Jack. Twitter. N.p., 21 Mar. 2006. Web. 
Max, D.T. "Two-Hit-Wonder." The New Yorker. Conde Nast, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 
"The World's Billionaires." Forbes. N.p., 20 Feb. 2017. Web.
Van Steenburgh, Fleck, Beeman, and Kounios. Insight. N.p., n.d. Web. 

Weisberg, Robert W. Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. 


  1. Jack Dorsey is such an interesting, creative character. The concept of Twitter, at first, did not make sense to me; I understood it as Facebook, but with only the status updates. He certainly teaches us a lesson in conciseness and minimalism. I also find it incredibly intriguing the way he found importance in small details such as the collarbone or the f-hole in a violin and their roles' in a larger symptoms. I think it really speaks well to the idea we talked about in class; perhaps creativity is not so much finding a solution to a problem, but finding a problem to solve in the first place.

  2. I think what's really interesting is the bottom paragraph, where Dorsey's lavish lifestyle and minimalism are compared. It seems that he isn't committing wholeheartedly to either. Twitter is an efficient, minimalistic social media site yet continues to add more features to improve. I don't mean this as a criticism, however, every innovation needs to be able to progress to continue to be successful. Dorsey chooses to follow Twitter's suit with his dress, diet, and exercise habits, but you say he chooses to live a lavish lifestyle. This makes me wonder where he draws the line between choosing to be simple and choosing luxury, and why. It's also interesting that individuals take the time to use his lifestyle to criticize Twitter.

  3. I love his first tweet ever. The way he even writes "twttr" exemplifies his dedication to minimalism in his creative product. As a twitter user, I have always appreciated the character limit because it forces individuals, like myself, to be more concise. Going onto Facebook and seeing a page long status makes me overwhelmed, but I could scroll through Twitter for hours because no post is longer than 140 characters! Although, that may be attributed to my short attention span. Dorsey reminds me of Picasso in his dedication to simplification and minimalism. I can only imagine part of Dorsey's inspiration was to revert away from the traditional Facebook-esque social media, similar to the way that Picasso reverted from his predecessor's artistic style with cubism.

  4. I actually never knew who created twitter so it was really interesting to read about Jack as a creative. I use twitter almost everyday and it was really cool to read about his creative process and how he is a minimalist and that impacted his creative product. I also think its really cool how he still maintains his minimalism after achieving such great success. I really like that twitter limits users to 140 characters because it forces people to be more concise with their ideas. Thanks for sharing!


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