My next book: “Writing on the Wall”

WotW US coverTHMy next book, “Writing on the Wall: Social Media—The First 2,000 Years” will be published in October 2013. You can read a chunk of the introduction, which explains what the book is about, here, and you can also get a flavour of the book from these excerpts on coffeehouses as 17th-century social-media platforms and how Martin Luther “went viral”.

The book’s aim is to examine the historical precursors of today’s social-media systems, which date (in my view) back to the Roman period. That was why the working title of the book was “Cicero’s Web”, but that title made it sound as though the whole book was about Roman media. So the final title is “Writing on the Wall”, which can be interpreted in multiple overlapping ways. Chiefly, it can be read both as a reference to the Biblical story of Belshazzar and as a reference to writing on a Facebook “wall”, which gives a sense of the book’s historical sweep (something that is also signalled on the cover by the use of letters in styles associated with different media). There’s also a third, more subtle meaning that relates to the ominous implications of the rebirth of social media for mass-media companies that arose in the industrial era, predicated on the high cost of delivering information to large audiences. The conclusion of the book is that the mass-media era was a historical anomaly, a point I have made elsewhere. Indeed, it might better be termed the “mass-media parenthesis”.

The book will be published throughout the English-speaking world by Bloomsbury. Having a single global publisher in English ensures that the book will have the same title, cover and publication date everywhere, which I think is vital for a book of this nature. You can preorder it using the links in the right-hand column.

  1. Pingback: Back to the future: What if the ‘mass media’ era was just an accident of history? — paidContent

  2. JCH said:

    Amazingly week done and fascinating book.

    Required reading for anyone who cares about or is interested in history, sociology or journalism.

    One thing I can’t get over… The cover font. It clearly says, writing IN the wall. I would be livid if my editors allowed creative to do this to my book. The graphic artist responsible should be tested for signs of life.

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