Writing on the Wall bookcover
Tom Standage
Bloomsbury USA


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Some years ago, I was in a writing group. It was a fantastic experience, and one that exposed me to a number of like-minded authors who quickly became close friends based on our common interest. Within that group, I became especially close to a smaller group; and even closer to a select few. These relationships lasted a couple of years, but then the course of our group interaction was interrupted by group politics. I found that I had been negatively influenced by these politics and policies. I had even become unconsciously a tool of those policies, and consequently left the group. I resolved at that time not to again become influenced by the manipulations—intended or not— of group politics. So now I look first before I join; and if I do join a group, I watch the boundary between gossip and sharing information and between the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. In these days, shifting social relationships and trends float on a societal level in contemporary media on internet mechanisms such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, Pinterest, and all of the emerging technologies on which authors develop their platforms. It makes sense to be aware.

Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage has an ambitious title. The book explores the history of communication from the first days when it was perceived that literacy was power, and draws parallels between current media, and all the forms of media going back through history. What is interesting is how today's digital age reflects constructs through history, in all its possible dimensions. The mechanisms, flow, floating and changing allegiances within today's media are not new; and Tom Standage's book connects the dots. It also provides plenty to think about regarding a historical perspective of freedom of speech.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of communication, as well as anyone who does not want to under or over-estimate, or be blindsided by the power and influence of (current) media in all its forms. Writing on the Wall is useful beyond its theoretical basis to anyone who wishes to be knowledgeable about the influence and drawbacks of new technologies. Ironically, Plato's arguments regarding oral vs literary culture apply to argumens involving the hazards of the internet today where "writing seen as a threat to the spoken word" parallels fears of internet communications replacing or displacing the spoken word in the face to face relationship.