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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Social Media

I attended an interesting workshop at a recent library conference. It was on social media--you know, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Linked In, etc.--and legal issues. This short video was shown as an introduction to the workshop, and it drove home the point that social media is conquering the world. I thought you might like to watch it, too.

I thought it might also be fun to compare today's social media revolution with the revolution brought on by the development of the the telegraph and Morse Code in the mid-19th century. Here is one title to delve into: Lightning Man: The Accursed Life of Samuel F.B. Morse by Kenneth Silverman [B MOR]. Richard Brookhiser, a reviewer from the New York Times described the changes wrought by Samuel Morse.
Before the telegraph, as Silverman points out, communication was a function of transportation. Messages traveled only as fast as ships, horses or trains could carry the bearers. After the telegraph, communication seemed magical, virtually instantaneous (hence the "lightning" of the title). What did people make of the change? Morse, and many of his peers, believed in what Silverman calls an "ideology of redemption through communication." They thought men and nations would be brought closer together, and war would cease--this despite the fact that the telegraph quickly became a tool of war reporting, and war making.
Brookhiser's last point is clearly taken up in Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War by Tom Wheeler [973.7092 WHE]. What would Mr. Morse have thought of the instantaneous communication that takes place today? Back then instantaneous was simply figurative.

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