Facebook is our Spinning Jenny

New times, new symbols.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

James Hargreaves inven­ted the Spinning Jenny in 1764.

He was a weaver and a car­penter, and he put his skills into invent­ing the auto­mat­ic weav­ing machine to make his work easi­er. The res­ult was the Spinning Jenny, a device that sparked the indus­tri­al revolu­tion in England.

Imagine for a second that Facebook is the Spinning Jenny of our time, a his­tor­ic­al mark­er of change in a shift that reshapes how we relate and communicate.

The Industrial Revolution changed our way of life by restruc­tur­ing how we form soci­et­al groups. We became less depend­ent on a loc­al com­munity to provide for our needs and more urb­an. The digit­al revolu­tion has brought us a shift of sim­il­ar mag­nitude — nev­er before have groups formed and dis­solved so rap­idly and so free from demo­graph­ic­al boundaries.

Of course, the indus­tri­al revolu­tion wasn’t only due to Spinning Jenny, just as the digit­al revolu­tion wasn’t only due to Facebook. James Hargreaves and Mark Zuckerberg just happened to cre­ate some­thing that demon­strated to the world the poten­tial of new tech­no­logy. The chances are that future his­tor­i­ans will use Facebook as a sim­il­ar sym­bol for change, just like we refer let the Spinning Jenny illus­trat­ing the Industrial Revolution.

If you, in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, happened to be in the tex­tile industry, you would be a fool to ignore Spinning Jenny. You would be a fool not to invest in some auto­ma­tion. And you must be smart about it; you must make money through­out the trans­ition while invest­ing in new ways to make money. 

If you weren’t in the tex­tile industry, maybe you had some “extra” years to pre­pare before your line of work became indus­tri­al­ised. Some used those years to design and invest. Others didn’t. They couldn’t bring them­selves to accept the inevitable.

To Spin Or Not To Spin - Inception - Spinning Top
To spin or not to spin. That’s the question.

Two ques­tions for you, dear read­er and fel­low PR pro­fes­sion­al, to med­it­ate on as I stitch this thought together:

1. Imagine your­self in busi­ness in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, and someone came by and described the Spinning Jenny to you. How would you react? What actions would you take?

2. Despite being such a dis­rupt­ive inven­tion, you’ll have to go to a museum to find a Spinning Jenny now. What will the world look like when your digit­al tools are a thou­sand times more potent than Facebook is today?

Now, be smart about your Facebook strategy.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please con­sider shar­ing my pub­lic rela­tions blog with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. If you have ques­tions (or want to retain my PR ser­vices), please con­tact me at jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: The Electronic Age

Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

The Electronic Age

Human cul­ture is often described based on our access to pro­duc­tion tech­no­lo­gies (i.e. Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age). 

According to Marshall McLuhan and the Toronto School of Communication Theory, a bet­ter ana­lys­is would be to view soci­et­al devel­op­ment based on the prom­in­ence of emer­ging com­mu­nic­a­tions technologies.

Marshall McLuhan - Cambridge University - Digital-First
Marshall McLuhan at Cambridge University, circa 1940.

McLuhan sug­gests divid­ing human civil­isa­tion into four epochs:

  • Oral Tribe Culture. Handwriting marks the begin­ning of the end of the Oral Tribe Culture. The Oral Tribe Culture per­sists but without its former prominence.
  • Manuscript Culture. Printing marks the begin­ning of the end of the Manuscript Culture. The Manuscript Culture per­sists but without its former prominence.
  • Gutenberg Galaxy. Electricity marks the begin­ning of the end of the Gutenberg Galaxy. The Gutenberg Galaxy per­sists but without its former prominence.
  • Electronic Age. Today, we reside in the Electronic Age. Possibly, we haven’t exper­i­enced the begin­ning of this age’s decline yet.

The Gutenberg Galaxy is a land­mark book that intro­duced the concept of the glob­al vil­lage and estab­lished Marshall McLuhan as the ori­gin­al ‘media guru’, with more than 200,000 cop­ies in print.”
Source: Modern Language Review 1McLuhan, M. (1963). The Gutenberg galaxy: the mak­ing of typo­graph­ic man. Modern Language Review, 58, 542. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​2​3​0​7​/​3​7​1​9​923

As a PR pro­fes­sion­al and lin­guist, I sub­scribe to the concept of the Electronic Age. The point is that soci­ety is unlikely to revert to the Gutenberg Galaxy.

Thus, digit­al-first is the way for pub­lic rela­tions, too.

Read also: Digital-First is the Way

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

1 McLuhan, M. (1963). The Gutenberg galaxy: the mak­ing of typo­graph­ic man. Modern Language Review, 58, 542. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​2​3​0​7​/​3​7​1​9​923
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has


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