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


Overview -

Papyrus rolls and Twitter have much in common, 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.  Read more...


 
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More About Writing on the Wall by Tom Standage
 
 
 
Overview

Papyrus rolls and Twitter have much in common, 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.

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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781620402832
  • ISBN-10: 1620402831
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Publish Date: October 2013
  • Page Count: 278
  • Dimensions: 9.53 x 6.51 x 1.02 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.23 pounds


Related Categories

Books > History > World - General
Books > Language Arts & Disciplines > Communication Studies
Books > History > Social History

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-10-07
  • Reviewer: Staff

The Economist's digital editor Standage (A History of the World in Six Glasses) draws comparisons between modern social media and the forms of communication and information dissemination used over 2,000 years to show how, in fact, "History retweets itself." Examples include ancient Roman graffiti that bears a strong resemblance to a Facebook status update: "On April 19, I made bread" and Martin Luther's 95 theses, perhaps the first document to go viral, selling two thousand copies from 1520-1526. The same era saw propaganda woodcuts featuring "bold graphics with a smattering of text," similar to modern day memes. In the court of Elizabeth I, people like Sir John Harington, inventor of the flushing toilet, were prized for their "witty epigrams" that read like tweets. Standage traces the origins of the American press as a source of shared rebellion leading up to the Revolutionary War and radio broadcasting as a source of culture in Britain and propaganda in Nazi Germany. Finally, Standage discusses the influence of the internet from its conception in a UCLA computer lab to its involvement in 2011's Arab Spring. Standage captures quite beautifully the essence of the human need to connect and interact, both its banality and world-altering power. (Oct.)

 
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