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Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years Hardcover – October 15, 2013
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“This book will change the way you think about social media. It reveals that today's techologies are helping us scratch a timeless itch to connect and share.” ―Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape, cofounder and general partner, Andreessen Horowitz.
“Tom Standage's gripping history shows that the era of mass media dominance that we grew up in was a two-century anomaly in the natural course of our culture. Media used to be social and is becoming even more so again.” ―Chris Anderson, author of MAKERS: The New Industrial Revolution
“Tom Standage once again displays his ingenious gift for connecting our historical past to the debates and technologies of the present day. Writing on the Wall makes an entertaining and persuasive argument.” ―Steven Johnson, author of FUTURE PREFECT and WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM
“On the Internet we continue an old tradition of social media, pioneered in the Roman Republic. Writing on the Wall shows how we're retweeting the past at this very moment and inventing the future.” ―Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist
“A thoroughly fascinating look at the evolution of social media.” ―Booklist
Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, I did feel that most chapters were just entirely too long. Each chapter is devoted to a specific time period, and the author generally made his case quite quickly, but then seemed to feel the need to pad the page count, so rather than making his case and moving on, he makes his case, and then provides another example to buttress it, and then another, and then another, and then another. I couldn't help but keep thinking "OK, I get it ... please move on!" in almost every chapter.
Thankfully, the book redeems itself in the final chapters, which focus on the rise of mass media, how that was the true disruption, and how the internet is allowing us to really get back to the way things used to be.
If you're interested in social media or how technology impacts society, the book is a fairly decent read. If only the middle chapters were each half as long.
From the first page of the book, dealing with one of my heroes, Cicero, you will be pulled back through time while feeling very connected to the present. Cicero used his own social network to gather information, keep track of friends and rivals, and even learn what was happening in other countries. I found it fascinating that a letter could reach Britain in five weeks and Syria in seven weeks (p. 2). In a time before actual letter service this is remarkable.
But not just Rome gets a look under the microscope. From the beginning of time and how man's mind is wired for social media, to Luther, to the present (Including a very interesting chapter on how the mid century's huge media networks limited social media and contact) you travel from the beginning of social media to the present.
I love this book. I really recommend this as a gift to yourself and others. It is a perfect vacation book with gripping, well written and easy to read chapters. No matter where I turned, I found interesting tidbits like coffeehouse gossip goes back much farther than Starbucks (to about 1650) and an easier printing experience helping spark our own revolution.
This book is a revelation and joy. Tear yourself away from Facebook long enough to read The Writing on the Wall. You will be overjoyed that you did.
But I see all of these as part of the same universal human urge: It's all just a conversation. We all like to talk with each other about the things that interest us. When we can't connect in the "mass media" (whether for political reasons or the desire to find People Like Me), we find alternate ways to do so.
Standage apparently sees "social media" the same way, and he traces its back to Cicero (who wrote letters on papyrus to exchange news across the Roman Empire, urging friends to copy the letters, annotate with their own comments, and share with others... an extremely slow Facebook). He does a splendid job of casting the historical influences of communication styles in current terms, such as a chapter on "How Luther went viral" and "And so to the coffeehouse: How social media promotes innovation."
In a way, however, this is as much about the history of ALL communication media, not just social media.Read more ›
Many now believe that social media has democratized media and communications. This I believe is largely untrue. For a short time, in the early 2000’s, social media may have delivered on the promise of conversation but it missed the opportunity. All too quickly it became big business and fell into the hands of traditional marketers, advertisers and media professionals who were only comfortable with what they knew best and that is control. As a result, social media is now little different from radio, print and television.
It is blaringly loud, aggravatingly intrusive, and only episodically relevant. It is a channel of communication that flows one way like a fire hose. People are tricked into believing their posts, tweets and likes give them power. In reality, they are pinging and sharing what a small handful of people want them to. It is more "what you get is what you share" than "what you share is what you get".
Social media is a parlor trick. It only gives the appearance of being highly personal and individualized. What could have been “the masses’ media” is mass media plain and simple.
This is a big miss in the book as is the lack of commentary around content.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great study of social media from Roman times - when they wrote on literal walls to now. An overview of journalism and the media and how there is really nothing new under the sun..Published 4 months ago by Jonathan Cutts
First, a caveat: I am no history buff. I tended to avoid history through the years, but have appreciated Standage's approach to themed explorations of culture and... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Michael MacDonald
Very interesting read, meanders a bit and the middle sections overlap, but really quite good if you're into history or mediaPublished 8 months ago by William S.
Poses some good points here and there, but it is extremely dull and boring to read.Published 9 months ago by Milana
This was, as expected, a fun read. Standage does a great job describing methods of communication throughout history and shows, pretty convincingly, the more things change, the more... Read morePublished 14 months ago by N. Wojinski
The book is very easy to read, but also very worthwhile to make you think.Published 14 months ago by Ralph Olliges, Jr
This book is definitely worth your time! It is full of great historical information, and it was a pleasure to read.Published 16 months ago by Daniel L Emery
Standage has an amazing ability to show how current technologies are actually extensions of earlier methods that met the same human needs.Published 19 months ago by Kent Schnake