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Writing on the Wall

Writing on the Wall

by Tom Standage

Instant Communication

Papyrus rolls and Twitter have much in common, as each was their generation's signature means of “instant” communication. 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 ...

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Standage reviews the past two millennia. In our digital age, authors proliferate, publishers are in big trouble, copyrights are abused and violated, books sell like any market product, everyone in the world of writing is looking for visibility to make money. Today, as always, a kind of ancien...

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Tom Standage states in his book the idea that new media are the driving force behind many change movements, revolutions of thought and human behavior. They are the ones who spread the new ideas as it was in the time of the Roman Empire, of post-Reformation Europe, of the American War of Indep...

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According to Standage, what characterizes "social media" is not so much the technology with which they manifest themselves, but their sharing, conversational and communicative power that is hidden behind them. Horizontal, person-to-person communication in the form of a network. The single bec...

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Standage remembers the mistake that the Church of Rome made when Martin Luther published his "95 theses". It reacted by publishing writings in Latin and in academic form, ignoring the success of Martin Luther who had written in a colloquial German language accessible to all, publishing his pr...

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This book is a good historical summary on "social media". It allows us to understand the evolution of communication over time, also taking into consideration the biological and evolutionary needs of people who adapt their communication needs to the tools they have at their disposal.

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He starts from the description of how the traditional postal service developed in ancient Rome, expanding the borders of the empire with couriers, the slave trade, the famous "tabellari" that carried messages from one side to the other. A way to transmit news, personal and service communicati...

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Forms of writing with abbreviations on erasable plates were used. These communications were obviously only high social "elites", people who could afford a messenger slave. The other social classes were excluded. Standage analyzes various historical situations in which the media of the time pl...

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As in the case of the so-called "underground railroad". This was an informal network of secret routes and safe places used since the 19th century by black slaves in the United States to escape to the free states and Canada with the help of abolitionists who stood in solidarity with their caus...

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Or the network of connections that printers created before and after the American War of Independence to spread messages between the southern and northern states. Likewise a network of English printers and writers in the 17th century when they created what would later become the "niche" print...

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Groups of people involved in communication in various capacities, all white, male, wealthy who met in local cafes to discuss ideas and projects. We talked, wrote and read about politics, literature, poetry, art and economics, often in a very informal way. The ninth chapter of the book seems t...

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Writers and readers were increasingly dependent on the network of those who printed and sold books and newspapers for a profit. What we now call "popular culture" was invented in this period precisely to meet the demands coming from this audience. Their tastes and opinions were met.

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The printer-publishers were capitalists who controlled groups of newspapers and magazines as well as books for the general public. This editorial verticality has clouded our perception of what is "worth" to know. Social sites have questioned this communicative approach. On FB the "likes" esta...

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The same thing is done on Twitter, as well as on Google+ with its "pluses". Thus we all become "viral", in the sense that each of our communication that passes through an electronic medium, a message, an image, a video, a link, can reach an unpredictable number of people in real time, in any ...

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This book reads pleasantly, although there are gaps. It is not easy to enclose two thousand years and more of communication in a book. This does not mean that the book remains a valid testimony of how and to what extent the new media, in particular the so-called "social" ones, represent a gre...

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