Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Much has been written in recent months about the role social media has played in fomenting and facilitating the Arab spring, allowing revolutionaries to express their views and coordinate their actions. According to a detailed feature article in the 17 December 2011 issue of The Economist, social media, albeit of a different kind, played an identical, pivotal role in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. "How Luther Went Viral" traces the spread of the German ex-monk's ideas through quickly-printed, widely-circulated pamphlets, crude and graphic broadsheets, and re-worded popular songs. Just as modern digital media fan the simmering discontent of those opposed to authoritarian regimes, the sharing of print media in sixteenth-century markets and town squares helped precipitate the Protestant revolution. Today's "[s]ocial media are not unprecedented; rather, they are the continuation of a long tradition." A fascinating and worthwhile read.