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Sunday, May 31, 2009

How Social Media Will Change History


There is a cliche that many people often share about history, and how it is written by the victors. The conquerors across the world, for the most part, are the ones who transcribed the history for others to read. We have terms like "revisionist history" to account for the fact that we realize the truth may be quite a bit grayer than those historical accounts we read lead us to believe. And it is often the sole dissenting voice that points us toward what the true history may be - some in between version where the good guys are perhaps not quite so good, and the bad guys not so bad.

It is easy to think of these shades of history while traveling in Greece (where I spent the past week), because the evidence of this is all around. From the city of Acropolis high over Athens to the softly smoldering volcanic remains in the caldera of Santorini. What was once religion is now called mythology, a sign perhaps that our religion of today may befall the same fate. Amongst those ruins of temples and palaces, there is the beautifully frustrating knowledge that we will probably never know what these really looked like or how these people truly lived.

The history today will be different. With technology and social media, we have the effortless ability to capture our individual truth and experience in minute detail and save it on shared servers for the world to access hundreds or thousands of years from now. Ironically, this fact may make the study of history that much more complicated, as historians in the future will have many versions of truth to study and contrast. Rather than piecing this history together through buried bone fragments and stones with the rare written account as they have done for many years, they will do it through compiling and sorting data, analyzing imagery and watching video.

Combined with global historical initiatives such as the Internet Archive and Google Earth, the portrait of our world as it stands today will be far more complete and multi-experienced for historians of the future than any other age that has come before. For those of us who write blogs or upload photos, the scope of our actions are easy to forget or minimalize. But we are the new historians of our time and our content will one day be history - and probably for more than just ourselves. It's a humbling to imagine your own words on this scale ... particularly when you think of who could be reading them a long time from now.


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Intriguing thoughts. I've had similar thoughts in Greece and other places where evidence of civilizations is a bit more intact and evident than in the U.S., but thinking our history will survive intact is a bold thought.

Even today our recent history is already in fragments. Nitrate-base movie film rotting in cans; videotapes of baby's first steps or grand public speeches captured in dead formats that defy the transition to new formats; words and photos captured on hard drives that fail. Formats change regularly and become more ephemeral with each forward movement.

Even the "cloud" is not permanent. The ability to read the information relies on someone, or something, maintaining the infrastructure capable of accessing the information or at least transitioning the data with each step in technology. Has everyone moved their data off 8" floppies? Has the last data stored on a Zip disc been moved to CD? Was all the information on the last IDE drive transferred to SATA drives and will that be moved to the cloud? How many EMP incidents are required to erase portions of all the stored memories.

Data deteriorates naturally and foils man's individual quest for immortality. Even genetics are not infallible; a small piece of everyone will continue on, but there is no guarantee it will be recognizable in 100 or 1000 generations.

Rock is an appropriately solid substance to carry life's most permanent record. Rock carries fossilized information from billions of years ago. Carved rock carries information from thousands of years ago. Maybe our rock will be that golden disc on the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft or another record like that here on Earth. Our best hope may be that the quantity and variety of recorded information will allow a greater amount to survive through future eons.

Thanks for posting such an inspiring thought.

Agree with previous comment that it's questionable our cultural heritage will survive. Our civilization is in large part built around the availability of electricity -this will most likely at some point be wiped out by, for example, sunspot activity. Our civilization is much more fragile and prone to destruction than prior civilizations...

In the future, they will be piecing together shared servers.

I think that there will be more of history as written by the losers now. It always seems like when it comes to expressing their opinion it's the "forsaken" who make the biggest stink about it online.

Wow. Never even thought about how social media could be used in this way. However, the more I think about it the cooler and more useful it becomes. If we record everything and constantly are exchanging information...we will get a better unbiased view of history and that's good for everyone.

I think you are right, we will look back and hear what people say about the good old days of social marketing and laugh because we know it was never like that.

Dr. Letitia Wright
The Wright Place TV Show

This is a really interesting outlook on the future of history. I never thought of it that way before, but I think you make some really great points. In the future, historians can look at almost everything we say and do just by viewing what we have put on the internet. Someday, your blog posts could end up in a history of marketing book!

It will be easier for the government to let the new generation know about the history thourgh the social media like facebook, twitter etc.

hmmm... will we ever grow-out of Facebook, or will we end up putting our kids on "limited profile" so they can't view our transgressions when we were younger...


Intriguing post. I get the feeling that our culture won't stay 100% intact and that future generations will be piecing it together. More of our culture will be intact, but with so many more viewpoints, it'll be interesting how future generations will view us.

Story remains central in all media!

Change HAPPENS! We have other models to help tell stories using the mantra - Produce Once, Publish EVERYWHERE!

Good stories inspire action!

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