Keynote: The Future of Social Media - A Historical Perspective

Schedule info
Tom Standage

In recent years the internet has enabled a flowering of easy-to-use publishing tools that have made media more social, participatory and conversational in nature. But this phenomenon is not as new as it appears. The roots of social media be traced back to Roman times. Indeed, before the emergence of technologies of mass dissemination in the 19th century most media was in fact social and participatory in nature. It's the past 170 years, during which social media were overshadowed by centralised mass media, that is the real anomaly in historical terms. The rise of social media in the internet era is thus, in many ways, a return to the traditional way of doing things. I will examine the prehistory of social media over the past two millennia and place the construction and use of today's publishing tools in their full historical context.


Tom Standage

Tom Standage
Tom Standage is digital editor at The Economist, overseeing the magazine’s website,, and its mobile-phone, tablet and e-reader editions. Before that he was business affairs editor, running the back half of the magazine (business, finance, economics, science and technology), and he previously served as business editor, technology editor and science correspondent. He has been the editor of the Technology Quarterly supplement, which covers emerging technology, since 2003. Tom is also the author of five history books, including “An Edible History of Humanity” (2009), “A History of the World in Six Glasses” (2005), a New York Times bestseller, and “The Victorian Internet” (1998), described by the Wall Street Journal as a “dot-com cult classic”. He writes the video-game column for Intelligent Life, The Economist‘s lifestyle magazine, is a regular commentator on BBC radio, and has written for other publications including the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the New York Times and Wired. He holds a degree in engineering and computer science from Oxford University, and is the least musical member of a musical family

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