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“Writing on the Wall” by Tom Standage is a Seminal Work on Modernity

You may be wondering, what exactly is this doing on a news site, well, this book is big news since it was released in 2013, but allows us to quantify many concepts which we just see in our lives as of 2019, at the time of writing. “History repeats itself” may well be the motto for Tom Standage’s 2013 novel, Writing on the Wall: Social Media: The First 2000 Years. The novel is an insightful peep into how our past influences our present, most pertinently, relating to the concepts of mass and social media. It is one of the seminal works of the day and age which we presently occupy. The way in which the novel states things that ring true now, over half a decade later, are both chilling and significant to us as a society. Below, we get into what exactly makes this novel as significant as we say it is, and why it is news that this novel is genuinely one of the ones you can read in today’s day and age, which tend to explain something rather than raise even more questions.

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What is Standage Attempting to Say?

On the surface level, Standage’s novel is mainly about drawing parallels from the past, to the present. These include specific technologies, such as stone tablets being compared to iPad’s, or entire concepts, such as the idea of something “going viral”. However, the content does run much deeper than simply topical references, and backwards labeling, as Standage does manage to ask a fair amount of questions, which are existential, and reflective in nature. Standage also raises questions about censorship, and centralization of power that are brought about by new media, and dares to ponder, where we will be as a society in the next hundred years. Most interestingly perhaps, Standage describes the existence and creation of mass media as a cycle that repeats itself every few centuries. Referencing the evolution through the industrial age, through to the information age we currently reside in.

Why is the Novel Significant?

This unique extrapolation of how the past has influenced our present, and how it may shape our future makes for an intriguing and substantial cocktail of a novel that dares to question some of the technologies that define our existence as a human race. Standage’s fascination and passion for the topic really shines through, and definitely makes the book a far more enjoyable read than most would come to expect, considering the subject matter. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in the history of media, or simply history in general, as to say Standage’s insights are contrarian and fascinating, would be a gross understatement. It goes without saying that we would highly recommend this book, and it might genuinely be able to answer a lot of your questions about social media and the modern age we occupy, as well as more philosophical questions as to what is the role we as humans currently occupy.


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