About: Papyrus rolls and Twitter have much in common as each was their generations 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 centuriesthe Catholic Church for example faced similar dilemmas in deciding whether or how to respond to Martin Luthers 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 todays social media and encourages debate and discussion about how well communicate in the future
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