Social media in history

A number of webinars and blogs have, of late, considered where social media fits within the wider landscape of innovation.  Some of the conversations have been fueled by Twitter’s flotation, as one put it, the self-proclaimed town hall/pubic square is becoming a shopping mall, everyone will be there but you will have to pay for a space.

An episode of the Economist podcast called upon the idea of earlier ecosystems for sharing ‘on the wall’, including the impact of previous technologies/resources such as slave labor in Rome, the printing press, etc.

ELESIG’s recent webinar, meanwhile, considered the Internet as the global Coffee House, which were once described as ‘penny universities’ as you could talk with, and learn from, some of the great minds of London.  These conversations leading to, amongst other things, the London Stock Exchange.

Overall, as so often, it is useful to learn from history and realise the latest technologies are not the end game.  Beyond communicating with other planets, what else might we expect to see which will help foster better collaboration, communication and innovation?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Mind controlled/powered computers, ideas captured in real-time.
  2. Better translation, as the web is still being dominated by English-writing power.   China and other locations will start to export research and ideas more prominently.
  3. Openness to continue to spread, including (hopefully) participatory ownership (including government).

A 4th and final option might be for the web to become cleverer, for example, if I start to describe an existing theory in a blog post then the system recognizes that and suggests I read the original first.  Some systems exist in this area but tend to link blog posts by the terms used, they do not try to minimize the information overload by being clever enough to actually recognize new ideas from old – due to all the difficulties of processing language in that way.

Author: iangardnergb

My name is Ian Gardner and I am interested in various topics that can be seen as related to learning, technology and information. To see what I am reading elsewhere, follow me on The Old Reader ( and/or Twitter (@iangardnergb).

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