The keynote of day 2 of DrupalCon London was given by Tom Standage and had the title "The future of social media - a historical perspective".
Tom Standage's main point is that actually social media is nothing new, but has been around every since. That news always did spread from individual to individual horizontally. He picks some examples to illustrate the connections that he makes. One is a historical of letter that circulated in the roman empire, which included snippets and sometimes copies of other letters. Just as someone whould quote in a blog post nowadays.
The actual reason why social media seems to be new, is the (relativley short) rise of centralized mass media, such as television and newspapers. The short developement of centralized news is supposed to be reverted again, by social media.
And here are some photos of his presentation..