Four Score and Seven Tweets Ago: How social media is rewriting the history books

News of Whitney Houston’s death rocked the World, but it wasn’t written by an Associated Press journalist. The assassination of Osama Bin Laden hit the headlines, but it didn’t break through Reuters. Just a couple of high profile examples of how news has broken on Twitter before the mainstream managed to get hold of it and confirm them. But this raises a more interesting dilemma.

As tweets become a user commodity and ownership a legal issue just who is responsible for curating history as it happens ? Before we relied on so-called experts and historians to document events after the fact (more often than not with their own personal and political spin on the subject) and pass this knowledge down to adult and children through text and history lessons.

But now ? Events unfold in real-time, people offer opinion as it happens via Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and a number of other online media but is anyone actually recording, curating, collating and processing these as fact for future generations to make sense of ? Is a Trending Topic on Twitter and LinkedIn worthy of mention in the history books or are they just digital blips to be ignored ?

Imagine becoming the World’s first Social Historian. Just where would you start ? Does the Internet of Things remove the need for static historical media because it’s being written as it happens and is accessible by all to consume ? What if the point at which an event makes history is actually recorded wrongly because the sheer weight of public noise via social media alters the facts behind it ?

We are living in an age where data is consumed and discarded in real-time, where opinion can be incited with the simplest of online gestures and where history is in danger of being ignored or altered at the speed of a Tweet.

History may never repeat itself again because of social media. In fact, traditional history as we know it may be consigned to the history books itself.


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Categories: Disciplines, Disruption, Social / Collaboration

Author:Theo Priestley

"I had more creative ideas from Theo in 6 months than I have had in 6 years from most people." Theo Priestley is one of the most recognised independent technology industry influencers and evangelists, ranking in the Top 100 thought leaders across Virtual/ Augmented Reality, FinTech, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Internet of Things and future trends. Theo has written insights for Forbes, Wired, The European Magazine, Venturebeat to name a few, and has been interviewed for many online publications including the BBC on his thoughts on technology and the future. A regular paid keynote speaker and panelist at conferences and events, Theo is engaged for his forthright views and isn't afraid to challenge conventional thinking and the marketing hype surrounding the industry when presenting, never pulling punches to get the message across on how technology can be applied to improve business and the customer experience. He has also successfully organised and run TEDx and Ignite events. Highly active across social networks, he sits in the Top 1% for social media engagement on Kred and Klout and is constantly sharing articles and his analysis that he feels his audience would be interested in. Theo is also active in the startup community, mentoring within UK and US accelerators and sits on a number of advisory boards. Former VP and Chief Technology Evangelist at a Top 25 European enterprise software company with a career spanning both innovation strategy and delivery of software and business change in Financial Services, and as an independent technology industry analyst. Follow Theo on Twitter @tprstly or connect here directly for constant insights on tech and marketing trends. • Top 1% Influencer on Kred (915) • Top 1% Influencer on Klout (70+) • 12,000+ Followers on LinkedIn • 13,000+ Followers on Twitter • Recognised Top Influencer in AI, Virtual/ Augmented Reality, Fintech, IOT and Wearable Tech, Big Data and Analytics.

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3 Comments on “Four Score and Seven Tweets Ago: How social media is rewriting the history books”

  1. Larry Mann
    September 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    Consider how quickly incorrect information can travel. We now know that Sam Becile probably doesn’t exist. We can also be pretty sure that the rioters who killed our ambassadors never saw the trailer of “Innocence of Muslims”. They were told it was inflammatory by authorities. Compare this to how fast news travelled in 1814 when Andrew Jackson won a very famous battle against the British at the Battle of New Orleans, AFTER a peace treaty had already been signed. The war was technically over. Slow information vs. fast disinformation. Sam Becile blamed by Im Beciles?

  2. September 17, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    Whilst I agree on the points presented on this post, however, I sometimes think that the news brought by through social media are news that are important to some people and not necessarily the majority. As such, what’s ‘important’ is skewed to the interests to a few, which makes it no different from mainstream media.

    • September 17, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      Hi Charl,

      It’s not so much the reporting angle I was trying to achieve, that much is a given now. It’s more how historical record will be perceived and recorded in the future. Will students of history draw from services like Twitter as a ‘golden source’ of fact or information and if they do just how accurate are we to believe accounts of events when they research ?
      Not only this but as people write about certain events in our history and timeline how will they include social media records ?

      I think it would be an interesting exercise to rewrite events in history from the perspective of Twitter, for example:

      @fisherman_adam Did you see that dude walk on water ? Ppl are saying he’s the next #messiah

      @carpenter_dave Nah, didn’t see it but I’m still waiting for my jug of water to turn into wine #miracleplease

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