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Writing on the Wall: Social Media: The First 2,000 Years Audiobook – Unabridged

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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