Microreview: Writing on the Wall by Tom Standage

December 16, 2013

imgresThe book.  Writing on the Wall – Social Media, The First 2,000 Years

The author.  Tom Standage.  Digital editor for The Economist.  

What it does.  Puts the current revolution in communication into broader historical context.

The angle.  Social media is not new.

Readability.  Comfortable.  History that reads like a story you don’t want to put down.

Why you should read it.  Like every generation believes that they invented sex, we believe we invented social media.  Writing on the Wall offers a 250 page reality check.  We’ve just reiterated what humans have done for millennia.

Favorite subheading:  ’Are coffee houses making us stupid?’  A section that illustrates that the fears of social media and information exchange expressed today were raised surrounding socialization in coffee houses in the 1600’s.  ”Coffee houses gave physical form to the previously immaterial social networks along which information passed, making it much easier to connect to them.”

Favorite quote:  “Revolutionaries always find it easier to agree on what they want to get rid of than what they want to replace it with.”

Bottom line:  Anyone invested in understanding where we’ve come from and where we’re headed with regard to communication should read Writing on the Wall.

If you’re looking for something more substantive check out Paul Krugman’s pithy endorsementFrank Rose in the New York Times found Standage ‘short on insight.’  Hilarious.

Links to Amazon are affiliate links


Susannah Fox December 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Have you written other microreviews like this one? I would happily read many more — and I plan to steal the format for my own blog. I’ve read so many great books I want to share but haven’t yet had time to write a full-length post for each one.

Bryan Vartabedian December 29, 2013 at 9:37 am

No I haven’t, Susannah. I did it on the fly when, like you, I didn’t have it in me to generate 1000 organized words. I am going to flirt with it and, yes, please take the concept and see what you come up with. It’s not proprietary!

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