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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather more persuasive, if a little less lively, than a Malcolm Gladwell volume
Tom Standage's book has at its heart one good magazine-length article about how many of the concepts we associate with social networks run over the internet have in fact been around in all sorts of forms for thousands of years. Concepts such as commenting, sharing and livening up content with stories about cute animals date as far back as the Romans and their Acta...
Published 10 months ago by Mark Pack

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting context for understanding today's social media
Before picking up this book, I had assumed that social media was a modern phenomenon. However, Standage argues persuasively that this is not so and traces its history back to Roman times.

I found some of his anecdotes a bit dull and his general style is rather earnest. Nonetheless, it
Published 11 months ago by Ian Riley


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather more persuasive, if a little less lively, than a Malcolm Gladwell volume, 16 Feb 2014
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Mark Pack (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Tom Standage's book has at its heart one good magazine-length article about how many of the concepts we associate with social networks run over the internet have in fact been around in all sorts of forms for thousands of years. Concepts such as commenting, sharing and livening up content with stories about cute animals date as far back as the Romans and their Acta Diurna.

It's a neat piece of insight which doesn't just give us a new way of looking at the past, it also shows us how lessons from the past help us predict even the most modern of technological developments.
What expands Ton Standage's work to a full book is the chapters on the Romans, Martin Luther and so on. If you are not familiar with these parts of history, they make for a great set of summaries which add a persuasive weight of evidence to Standage's case.

If you are familiar with these parts of history already, then the chapters are a little staid - they are good, competent summaries of what happened but don't have a style or set of insights that raise them beyond the many other existing accounts of such periods that exist already. Once, for example, you have the point about 16th century poetry used to be passed round, commented on and amended in a way similar to modern social sharing, the chapter does not offer much for anyone already familiar with the basics of 16th century history.

But for most readers, that existing breadth of knowledge does not apply, and the weight of examples makes the book rather more persuasive, if a little less lively, than a Malcolm Gladwell volume.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting context for understanding today's social media, 26 Jan 2014
By 
Ian Riley (Shanghai, China) - See all my reviews
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Before picking up this book, I had assumed that social media was a modern phenomenon. However, Standage argues persuasively that this is not so and traces its history back to Roman times.

I found some of his anecdotes a bit dull and his general style is rather earnest. Nonetheless, it
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening, 2 Mar 2014
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Completely changed my perspective on social media. The book is an entertaining read all the way from ancient times to the early days of the penny press. It is less interesting in the last chapter, where it actually talks about social media in present times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We need more books like this, 22 Oct 2013
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We need more books like this: books which look at the bigger picture behind this thing we are calling social media. The central idea of this book is that social media is nothing new - it is simply a return to a form of communication that has existed for centuries - and that media has only been anti-social (i.e. mass media) for a relatively short period of time, a time which is now ending.

However, what I found the most interesting was not so much the idea that the social nature of media hasn't changed (except recently) it was the fact that the reaction of society to changes in media is really what hasn't changed. Every time of new form of information sharing emerges - especially one which allows greater levels of participation - the old elites raise the same protests: the fact that the new participants are in some way unqualified to participate, or that participation is generally frivolous, time-wasting, or damaging to mankind's overall well-being. Of course, what is usually the only thing damaged is said elite's ability to run things in a way that has made them an elite in the first place.

Personally I don't entirely buy into the book's main premise. For example, I think the desire to focus on the social (i.e. interpersonal) nature of communication before mass media leads to an underestimation of the impact of printing. Printing was much more than pamphleting - albeit pamphlets were the main printed expressions of personal / political ideas. Likewise this focus may cause the importance of industrialised printing and the growth of the mass media to be over-emphasised. In reality, the elites have always been in control because the means of distributing information (be they slave messengers or steam printing presses) were always expensive.

This is the respect in which what we now call social media is genuinely new. For the first time in history the ability to share information is available to everyone (and not just people, objects can now share information). Information has been liberated from a restrictive means of distribution (i.e. media) and this is not just spelling the end of mass media, it is spelling the death of media itself. This has the potential to change societies in ways in which we can barely imagine. Rather than changing the institutions in which we place trust or authority, we are changing the nature of trust or authority itself so that it no longer lives in any form of institution (newspaper, bank, university, government), rather it lives in forms of transparent processes. It also creates a world which is no longer driven by just information, but by data - a language that no human can ever speak.

However, this is just my opinion (see chapters 2, 6 and 8 of an ebook Social Media and The Three Per Cent Rule: how to succeed by not talking to 97 per cent of your audience I have published, if you will excuse the plug) and it doesn't damage the value of the book and the fascinating insights and observations that emerge from what is, essentially, a review of the history of media.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 21 Feb 2014
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This is an insightful and well written book with relevance for anyone who is interested in how people share news and shape opinions.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly Interesting, 10 Jan 2014
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This gives a great backround to the story of Social Media over millenia. The similarity of twitterbook and friends with historical technologies is obvious but better for being put together here.
As a reluctant convert to Kindle I have to say that the convenience is fantastic but it still isn't paper though is it?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Explores the historical roots of the internet culture, that ..., 6 Nov 2014
Explores the historical roots of the internet culture, that shows the social media not only connects us today but it is closely linked to our past. Fascinating but pity issues of values and wisdom were not given greater explicit attention.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first rate read, 5 Dec 2013
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Mr. Leslie J. Moore (It's grim oop North! -Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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I heard Tom Standage talking about his book, about a week before I bought it. He was extremely enthusiastic about his subject is a way that you can't fake.
This is a very detailed stroll through our communication methods,spanning the last 2,000 years.
If that sound like a dreary read,think again. This is a very well researched and thought provoking book.
You will need to be a certain age,but those of you who remember the TV presenter,James Burke, who did (amongst other things) a series for the BBC entitled connections, will find this book as entertaining as those programs.
Thoroughly recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To share is human, 17 Oct 2013
By 
Mac McAleer (London UK) - See all my reviews
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Tom Standage delivers a very readable history of the media up to and including the new social media, with the emphasis on the history. The new social media seems so new because it follows a great anomaly, that of the mass media with its centralised control and distribution. We are going back to the old ways but in a new, super-networked way.

The author starts with pre-historic humans and their development as highly social animals. Our remote ancestors groomed each other for social cohesion. Later they developed language (and gossip). The invention of writing allowed this social activity to be spread across place and time. The growth of literacy allowed social interaction to increase. Printing boosted the process. Now social media and the Internet in general have given it a further boost.

In the beginning were the Greeks, wavering between the spoken and written word. Then came the Romans. Roman patricians, most notably Cicero, were prolific exchangers of letters; their plebeian inferiors were prolific writers on walls. St Paul kept the embryonic Christian movement alive with his epistles (letters). Christianity triumphed, then ossified. Attempts at reform were at first unsuccessful. Then came printing and Martin Luther. The printing of Lutheran pamphlets was the new media and it went viral. Soon printing came to be seen as a threat not just to the Church but to the state. A reaction set in and severe regulation was imposed. For a while this was effective but control was lost during periods of social crisis such as the English Civil War and the American and French Revolutions. An important promoter of the pamphlets was the coffeehouse. There, along with pamphlets, could be found the newssheets and newspapers. These had small circulations and often relied on real and imaginary letters from their readers to fill up the space.

All this changed with the development of mass market media. Steam presses allowed newspapers to reduce their price and increase their circulation, but now advertising was a major part of their income. They delivered a product to consumers, delivering their readers to their advertisers. This was followed by broadcast radio and broadcast television. The Internet is now eroding this mass market, although perhaps not as we expected.

THIS BOOK has 250 pages spread across 11 chapters. There is a Notes section of 4 pages which, chapter by chapter, references entries in the 9 pages of the Sources. There is also an Index and a few black and white illustrations; for example: a Roman wax table used for writing short messages; the title page of an English Civil War pamphlet; the interior of a London coffeehouse; the cover of the New York Sun from 1833. The author is the digital editor of The Economist.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great from Standage!, 10 Jan 2014
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You can always rely on Tom Standage for a great read with lots of interesting facts and this is no exception. I love all the stuff from different periods of time.
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