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Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Tom Standage

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15. Oktober 2013
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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"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

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

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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Amazon.com: 4.4 von 5 Sternen  60 Rezensionen
14 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Good thesis, but drags too much in the middle 20. September 2013
Von Rob Huddleston - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
The basic argument behind the book - that social networking isn't really new, and that in fact the "disruption" caused by Facebook, Twitter, and the rest isn't really a disruption at all, but rather more like a return to the norm - was quite interesting. Prior to reading the book, I didn't know that ancient Romans in far-flung provinces kept up with the happenings in the capital via social networks. I had never considered that Martin Luther and Thomas Paine sought redress of their grievances in much the same way as did the people in the Arab Spring, so again that part of the book was interesting.

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.
10 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Ancient Social Networks are Fascinating! 6. September 2013
Von Madelyn Pryor - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
When I heard that Tom Standage, the author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses had a new book out, the Writing on the Wall, I jumped on it. As someone who checks Facebook throughout the day and loves history, I thought this would be a perfect, joyous read. I was right.

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.
21 von 25 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A history-of-communication book that's chock full of Wow moments 13. Oktober 2013
Von Esther Schindler - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
There's no way I could have resisted Tom Standage's book, which promised to show how social media is anything but a new phenomenon. I've been online since long before online was cool, when BBSes were long-distance modem calls; I've been running online communities since CompuServe was a dominant force; I've been writing Amazon reviews since 1998 (this is #804); and I've been doing "social media" since before anyone gave it a name. Twitter? Google+? Facebook? Yeah, I have a bunch of "followers," which is why my name's on the cover of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Twitter Marketing.

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. Before the French revolution, there was the state press (very controlled), the foreign press (smuggled in), and "the overlapping informal networks of gossip, songs, poems written on scraps of paper, materials printed on hidden presses, and handwritten news sheets called nouvelles a la main (which literally means 'news by hand')." So I ended up learning a huge amount of the history of journalism and mass media, because the "alternative" means nothing without understanding the context in which "mass media" consolidated control of information in the hands of a few moguls.

There's plenty of lessons for anyone "doing" social media today, too. For example, the Catholic Church had to decide whether or how to respond to Martin Luther's attacks in the early 16th century (using that newfangled printing press), just as businesses today need to learn the PR consequences of responding to public criticism on the Internet. (Let's just say: They made the wrong choices.)

Oh, jeez, that all makes this sound important and boring. Quite the opposite. Standage tells lots of stories that made me giggle, or say, "How 'bout that!" or occasionally "Wow." I hadn't realized that Thomas Paine's Common Sense sold 250,000 copies, making him the world's best-selling author, much less the manner in which it gained that popularity -- even though, as Standage writes, the pamphlet was regarded as dangerously extremist, and "early readers who were convinced by its arguments were sometimes unsure whether they ought to express their enthusiasm for it." I chuckled at the history of coffeehouse criticism: "That coffeehouses were distracting people and encouraging them to waste time sharing trivia with their friends when they ought to be doing useful work."

It's a really entertaining book, whether you're interested in social media (professionally or otherwise) or any kind of media. Fun, and recommended.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Writing on the Wall is a fascinating look at the history of social media. 9. September 2013
Von Robert G Yokoyama - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
I use social media daily. I use it blog about movies, make friends and look for a place to eat. I also read books and listen to music using social media. This subject really appeals to me. I did not grow up using social media, but it has definitely made my life easier. I don't have to spend so much time looking for things because of social media sites like amazon and yelp.

I learned that the ancient Greeks started the practice of writing graffiti. They wrote on walls of friends to make announcements of love affairs and other news I don't write on walls physically, but I write on the walls of my friends on Facebook to announce what is going on in my life. I learned that Issac Newton formulated his theories of gravity in coffee shops in the seventeenth century. I have never done any academic or creative work in coffee shops, but it seems like a great place to discuss my writing with other people. I never thought letter writing could be a form of social media. Standage discusses how the letters of Saint Paul helped spread the word about different churches. I really appreciate when I receive a hand written letter, because I know that the person took time to write me.

I never thought that writing poetry could be used to impress people and enhance a person's career. Standage finds a historical example of this. Sir John Harrington possessed a talent for writing poetry, that he impressed the Tudor court in the sixteenth century. His writing prowess promoted him to the rank of knight. I like to write poetry, so this example inspires me to continue doing it. Standage briefly discusses the impact social media has on what happens today. I learned of a Chinese social media platform called Weibo. Posts from this web site helped Chinese officials investigate a train crash in 2011 where forty people died. Writing on the Wall is a fascinating book, because the history of social media is something I have never thought of before.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Social Media is a Parlor Trick 10. Januar 2014
Von Jeffrey Swystun - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Having loved the author’s A History of the World in 6 Glasses, I looked forward to him proving a theory that has many believers. The basic premise is social media is a return to way things used to be. This argument suggests that our ancestors knew how to communicate one-to-one and one-to-many with meaning. Then 19th and 20th Century mass media bunged this all up with its huge and overwhelming broadcast capabilities. This machine pelted people with messages without asking if they wanted them or if they ever provided any value.

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. Standage talks of means of communications but not substance. Were The Reformation and Arab Spring a result of media or the arguments they advanced? Obviously, both are to be credited but I did not get the sense the author placed the same weight. I am not sure how to credit this given his role at The Economist.

Writing on the Wall is incredibly well researched but I glazed and passed over several parts starting with the analysis into primate behavior and discussions of how the neocortex works. I thoroughly enjoyed the chapter on poetry as a means of social media. This was original and fun. Though London and Paris’ coffee houses have been referenced a great deal recently to explain democratic communication and idea dissemination, Standage covers them in a human and fresh way. I, too, am referencing them in an upcoming book so hope people do not tire of the subject.

Though the titling throughout was clever: “New Post from Martin Luther” and “The Facebook of the Tudor Court”, Writing on the Wall is really quite dense and linear. Standage does a fine job of convincing one that there are clear antecedents in our history of social media but falls short of relating them to present day. There is lineage but no meaningful connection. After the first three chapters it grew repetitive and laborious.

It would have flowed better if the linkage or message was, “progress is threatening”. He provides such examples as Greeks being suspicious of the printed word over the spoken. Socrates believed that writing undermined the need to remember things and so weakens the mind. The same complaint is made today of Google and spellcheck. That may have perked it up. In summary, the premise is supportable, the history is there but the relevance fell short. Still it contributed to the discussion and readers who want similar efforts can look to:

Nothing New: An Irreverent History of Storytelling and Social Media by Muhammad Yasin, Ryan Brock

Histories of Social Media by Jonathan Salem Baskin

Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet by Asa Briggs and Peter Burke

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