Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years

Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years

by Tom Standage
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Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage

Papyrus rolls and Twitter have much in comon, as each was their generation’s signature means of “instant” communication. Indeed, as Tom Standage reveals in his scintillating new book, social media is anything but a new phenomenon.

From the papyrus letters that Roman statesmen used to exchange news across the Empire to the advent of hand-printed tracts of the Reformation to the pamphlets that spread propaganda during the American and French revolutions, Standage chronicles the increasingly sophisticated ways people shared information with each other, spontaneously and organically, down the centuries. With the rise of newspapers in the nineteenth century, then radio and television, “mass media” consolidated control of information in the hands of a few moguls. However, the Internet has brought information sharing full circle, and the spreading of news along social networks has reemerged in powerful new ways.

A fresh, provocative exploration of social media over two millennia, Writing on the Wall reminds us how modern behavior echoes that of prior centuries—the Catholic Church, for example, faced similar dilemmas in deciding whether or how to respond to Martin Luther’s attacks in the early sixteenth century to those that large institutions confront today in responding to public criticism on the Internet. Invoking the likes of Thomas Paine and Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet, Standage explores themes that have long been debated: the tension between freedom of expression and censorship; whether social media trivializes, coarsens or enhances public discourse; and its role in spurring innovation, enabling self-promotion, and fomenting revolution. As engaging as it is visionary, Writing on the Wall draws on history to cast new light on today’s social media and encourages debate and discussion about how we’ll communicate in the future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620402832
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 10/15/2013
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 829,058
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Tom Standage is digital editor at the Economist, overseeing the magazine’s website, smartphone, tablet, and e-reader editions. He is also editor of the Technology Quarterly supplement, which covers emerging technology. Standage is the author of five books, including the New York Times bestseller A History of the World in 6 Glasses, An Edible History of Humanity, and The Victorian Internet, described by the Wall Street Journal as a “dot-com cult classic.” Standage is a regular commentator on BBC radio and has written for many other publications, including the New York Times and Wired. He lives in London with his wife and children. Visit his website at www.tomstandage.com.

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Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Ausonius More than 1 year ago
London coffeehouse chitchat begat Isaac Newton's theory of gravity.  ***  So argues Tom Standage in Chapter 6 ("And So To The Coffeehouse: How Social Media Promotes Innovation") of his newest book, WRITING ON THE WALL: SOCIAL MEDIA - THE FIRST 2,000 YEARS. *** Throughout Standage's fascinating romp through the 100,000 years since the evolution of human language and the 5,000 years since the first writing systems, he relies on studies of R.I.M. Dunbar and others showing that human primates are hard wired to function at their best in face-to-face societies of no more than 150 people. Before language, smaller groups of "friends" "groomed each other's hair and sent pre-verbal signals about whom to trust and whom to fear within the 150 persons or so tribal unit. Today's humans, long since adept at talking in small groups, groom friends in other ways, including via social media such at Twitter and Facebook. *** Tom Standage assumes that his readers are at least somewhat familiar with the internet, Facebook, chat rooms and such social media. With that assumed familiarity in hand, he goes back to the Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, earliest Christians (especially Saint Paul, 16th Century Christian reformers (especially Martin Luther) arguing that people like Julius Caesar, Marcus Tullius Cicero and many others were social media pioneers.  *** The author of WRITING ON THE WALL then moves forward through innovative uses of writing among elites of Tudor and Stuart courts, in France, in revolutionary North America and on through the rise of "the enemy" of true, natural human face-to-face interactive communication. That enemy, whose dominance lasted from perhaps 1833 and the steam press-powered newspapers through the rise of Marconi, radio and television became increasingly centralized, in the USA driven by advertising revenue and almost entirely demand side rather than supply side.  *** As in the days of Isaac Newton and his coffee house pals whose conversations begat explanations of gravity and planetary motions, the internet, the word wide web, chat books, Facebook, Twitter and their cousins have revived man's millennia old preference for communicating with "friends," for two-way dialog rather than passively receiving broadcast information and for relying on our friends to pass along our own ideas and shared texts derived from others. *** I learned something new and useful from every chapter but one. This is not a book of original scholarship. It is simply a brilliant application of seeing the world of 2013 prefigured when looking at the Rome of Cicero, the England of Isaac Newton and the transatlantic world of Marconi. That method works! ***This is one of the most stimulating books I have read in the past ten years. -OOO-        
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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