It’s often tempting, very tempting indeed, when new technologies come along to talk about the new and all the changes it will bring.
Better understanding, however, often comes from appreciating not only the new but also the old. Often the apparently novel lessons are simply the old ones dressed up in different clothes.
That’s why I think the Roman Acta Diurna provide a useful grounding in some of the principles of social media. Different technologies, centuries apart – yet common communications principles.
So no surprise that on my visit to Rome I’ve been particularly taken with the Basilica Julia, site of astroturfing Roman style.
Started by Julius Caesar and completed by his great-nephew (and posthumously adopted son) Augustus, it housed the 180 magistrates who heard civil law cases. Normally they split into four courts of 45, sitting all together as a body of 180 only for the trickiest of ones.
Lawyers use to hire spectators to come and cheer this speeches, boo those of the opposing lawyers and all round try to create an impression that it was the right side which was winning the arguments by making the most persuasive case. If it all helped put off their opponents, all the better.
Nothing like whipping up some fake opinions to bolster your position is there?