Postman, Neil - Amusing Ourselves to Death

Term Paper, 2001

14 Pages

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Neil Postman - Amusing Ourselves to Death

1. The medium is the metaphor

Postman points out that at different times in our history, different cities have been the focal point of a radiating American spirit. Today we must look to the city of Las Vegas in order to learn more about America´s national character: Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment.

At the time the book is written, the President of the United States, to name only one example, is a former Hollywood movie actor. Postman asks the question if we have reached the point where cosmetics has replaced ideology as the field of expertise over which a politician must have competent control.

The same is true for journalists: those without camera appeal are excluded from adressing the public about what is called the "news of the day". Another example: the first to discover that quality and usefulness of goods are subordinate to the artifice of their display were American businessmen. In short, one is inclined to think that in America God favours all those who possess both a talent and a format to amuse, whether they be preachers, politicians, businessmen etc.

But what about the reasons for such an entertainment society? The author now fixes his attention on the form of human conversation and postulates that how we are obliged to conduct such conversations will have the strongest possible influence on what ideas we can conveniently express. And what ideas are conveniently to express become the important content of a culture. Postman explains that the forms of public discourse regulate and even dictate what kind of content can issue from such forms. For example you cannot use smoke signals to do philosophy, nor can you do political philosophy on television. Its form works against its content.

"Amusing ourselves to death" is an inquiry into the most significant American cultural fact of the 20th century: the decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television. This change has dramatically shifted the content and meaning of public discourse since anything must be recast in terms that are most suitable to television. To put it short: the medium is the message. Forms of media favour particular kinds of content and therefore are capable of even taking command of a culture, in other words: the media of communication available to a culture have a dominant influence on the formation of the culture's intellectual and social preoccupations.

Speech, of course, is the primal medium. It determines how we think about things like time and space, that means speech has an essential effect on our "world view". If, as is the case, different languages entail different views of the world, one can imagine the consequences of every introduction of a new medium: culture is recreated anew by every medium of conversation. Each medium, like language, typography or television, makes possible a unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation fot thought, for expression, for sensibility. Postman stresses once more that the introduction into a culture of a new technique is a transformation of man's way of thinking - and, of course, the content of his culture. And that is what means to say by calling a medium a metaphor. Our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture.

2. Media as epistemology

Postman's intention in his book is to show that a great media-metaphor shift has taken place in America, with the result that the content of much of our public discourse has become nonsense. He concentrates his criticism on television and wants to show that definitions of truth are derived from the character of the media of communication through which information is conveyed: this chapter is a discussion of how media are implicated in our epistemologies.

The author leads to the point that the concept of truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression. Truth is a very subjective thing and every culture has its own conception, or call it prejudice, of what truth actually means. Today we are inclined to express and accept truth only in the form of numbers, but why don't we use proverbs and parables, like the old Greeks? To the modern mind it would appear irrelevant, even childish. Yet these forms of language are certainly capable of expressing truths. Is Galileo right in saying the language of nature is written in mathematics if for most of human history the language of nature have been myth and ritual? The point Postman is leading to is that as a culture moves from orality to writing to printing to televising, its ideas of truth move with it. According to the author, the decline of a print-based epistemology and the accompanying rise of a television-based epistemology has had grave consequences for public life.

In a print-culture, intelligence implies that one can easily dwell without pictures, in a field of concepts and generalizations. To be able to do so constitutes a primary definition of intelligence in a culture whose notions of truth are organised around the printed word. In the 18th and 19th century America was such a place, perhaps the most print-orientated culture ever to have existed.

Postman leaves open the question whether changes in media bring about changes in the structure of people's minds or changes of cognitive capacities, but he claims that a major new medium changes the structure of discourse; it does so by encouraging certain uses of the intellect, by favouring demanding a certain kind of skills and content. Changes in the symbolic environment are both gradual and additive at first until a "critical mass" is reached in electronic media, changing irreversibly the character of our surroundings and thinking. Television and print can't coexist, the latter is now merely a residual epistemology.

On the other hand, television obviously has its advantages: it can serve as a source of comfort and pleasure to the elderly, the infirm and the lonesome, it has the potential for creating a theater for the masses or for arousing sentiment against phenomenons like racism or the Vietnam War. Media change sometimes creates more than it destroys. Time will prove wether this is true for television, the future may hold surprises for us, therefore we must be careful in praising or condemning. However, there are evident signs that as typography moves to the periphery of our culture and television takes its place at the centre, the seriousness, and, above all, value of public discourse dangerously declines.

3. Typographic America

The immigrants who came to settle in New England were dedicated and skilful readers whose religious sensibilities, political ideas and social life were embedded in the medium of typography. Even then the literacy rate for men was somewhere between 89 and 95% in some regions, quite probably the highest concentration of literate males to be found anywhere in the world at that time. It is to be understood that the Bible was the central reading matter in all households, but aside from the fact that the religion demanded to be literate, 3 other factors account for the colonists' preoccupation with the printed word:

- First of all, we may assume that the migrants to New England came from more literate areas of England.
- Second, from 1650 onward almost all New England towns passed laws requiring the maintenance of a "reading and writing" school, and it is clear that growth in literacy was closely connected to schooling.
- Finally, these early Americans didn't need to print or write their own books, they imported a sophisticated literary tradition from their Motherland.

Reading was not regarded as an elitist activity, a classless reading culture developed because its center was nowhere and, therefore, everywhere.

The first printing press in America was established in 1638 as an adjunct of Harvard University; shortly thereafter many other presses emerged, whose earliest use was for the printing of newsletters. 1690 the first American newspaper appeared in Boston. The second issue was forbidden by the Governor, entailing the struggle for freedom of information which, in the Old World, had begun a century before. By 1800 there were already more than 180 newspapers, which meant that the U.S. had more than 2/3 the number of newspapers available in England, and yet had only half the population. By that time, Americans were so busy reading newspapers and pamphlets that they scarcely had time for books. As America moved into the 19th century, it did so as a fully print-based culture in all of its regions.

Novels were also very popular, many became bestsellers whose authors enjoyed an adoration we offer today to movie or pop stars. All visitors to America were impressed with the high level of literacy and in particular its extension to all classes. In addition, they were astounded by the near universality of lecture halls in which oral performance provided a continous reinforcement of the print tradition.

The point all this is leading to is that from its beginning until well into the 19th century, America was as dominated by the printed word as any society we know of. The influence of the press in public discourse was insistent and powerful not merely because of the quantity of printed matter but because of its monopoly. From the 17th century to the late 19th century, printed matter was all that was available. Public business was expressed through print, which became the model, the metaphor and the measure of all discourse. As a consequence, Americans modelled their conversational style on the structure of the printed word, creating a kind of printed orality. To sum it up: the press worked as a metaphor and an epistemology to create a serious and rational conversation, from which we have now been so dramatically separated.

4. The Typographic mind

During the "Age of typography", programmes at county or state fairs included many speakers, most of whom needed three hours for their arguments. The audiences regarded such events as essential to their political education, took them to be an integral part of their social lives and were quite accustomed to extended oratorical performances. Is there any audience of Americans today who could endure three hours of talk, espacially without pictures of any kind? Those earlier audiences must have had an equally extraordinary capacity to comprehend lenghty and complex sentences aurally. They apparently had a considerable knowledge of historical events and complex political matters without whom it would have been impossible to follow these demanding discussions. In other words, the use of language as a means of complex argument was an important, pleasurable and common form of discourse in almost every public arena. America was in the middle years of its most glorious literary outpouring. By that time, typography was at the height of its power, controlling the caracter of public discourse. The language used in those days was clearly modelled on the style of the written word, it was practically pure print.

Postman stresses that, in contrast to today's discourse, the written word, and an oratory based upon it, has a serious content. It is serious because meaning demands to be understood, thus reading is an intellectual affair that requires rationality. Print put forward a definition of intelligence that gave priority to the objective, rational use of the mind and at the same time encouraged forms of public discourse with serious content. It is no accident that the Age of Reason was coexistent with the growth of a print culture.

In the 18th and 19th century, even religious thought and institutions in America were dominated by an austere, learned and intellectual form of discourse that is largely absent from religious life today.

The differences between the character of discourse in a print-based culture and in a television- based culture are also evident if one looks at the legal system: in former times, lawyers tended to be well educated, devoted to reason and capable of impressive expositional argument, some attorneys even became folk heroes. A lawyer needed to be a writing and reading man par excellance, for reason was the principal authority upon which legal questions were to be decided.

Even in the everyday world of commerce, the resonances of rational, typographic discourse were to be found. In the 18th and 19th century those with products to sell took their customers to be literate, rational, analytical. Indeed, the history of newspaper advertising in America may be condesered, all by itself, as a metaphor of the descent of the typographic mind, beginning with reason and ending with entertainment. 1704 the first paid advertisement appeared in an American newspaper, and not until almost a hundred years later were there any serious attempts by advertisers to overcome the lineal, typographic form demanded by publishers. Advertising was expected to convey information and intended to appeal understanding, not passions. In the 1980s, this view changed with a massive intrusion of illustrations, photographs and slogans. Advertising became one part depht psychology, one part aesthetic theorie. Reason had to move in favour of emotions.

To understand the role that the printed word played in early America, one must keep in view that the act of reading in the 18th and 19th centuries had an entirely different quality than it has today. As mentioned above, the printed word had a monopoly on both attention and intellect, there being no other means to have access to public knowledge. Public figures were known by their written word, not by their looks or even their oratory. This is the difference between a word-centred culture and an image-centred culture. To most people, reading was both their connection to and their model of the world.

Postman calls the time of the sovereignty of the printing press the "Age of Exposition" (exposition = mode of thought, method of learning, means of expression). Toward the end of the 19th century the Age of Exposition began give way to a new age, the "Age of Showbusiness".

5. The Peek-a-Boo World

Toward the middle years of the 19th century, two ideas came together whose convergence provided America with a new metaphor of public discourse.

The first idea was that transportation and communication could be disengaged from each other, that space was not an inevitable constraint on the movement of information: the telegraph created the possibility of a unified American discourse. But the telegraph also destroyed the prevailing definition of information, and in doing so gave a new meaning to public discourse. Information now was context-free and made into a commodity. The process of elevating irrelevance to the status of news had begun. The new kind of information was no longer tied the (practical) problems and decisions readers had to address in order to manage their personal and community affairs. Telegraphy made relevance irrelevant; the abundant flow of information had very little or nothing to do with those to whom it was addressed. The "Daily News" gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action because it is both abstract and remote. The whole world became the context for news, everything became everyone's business.

Briefly, we may say that the contibution of the telegraph to public discourse was to dignify irrelevance and amplify impotence. The principal strenght of the telegraph was its capacity to move information, not collect it, explain it or analyze it. In this respect, telegraphy was the exact opposite of typography. To the telegraph, intelligence meant knowing of lots of thing, not knowing about them.

The second idea was photography, spoken of as a "language". But photography and writing (in fact, language in any form) have fundamental differences. To begin with, photography is limited to concrete representation; the photograph does not present to us an idea or concept about the world, it cannot deal with the unseen, the remote, the abstract. Such abstractions as truth, honour, love cannot be talked about in the vocabulary of pictures. Pictures need to be recognized, words need to be understood.

In fact, the point of telegraphy is to isolate images from context: meaning is distorted when a word or sentence is taken out of context; but there is no such thing as a photograph taken out of context, for a photograph does not require one.

In the 19th century photography made a fierce assault on language; it didn`t merely function as a supplement to language but replaced it as our dominant means for construing and understanding reality. For countless Americans, seeing, not reading, became the basis for believing.

In some way, the photograph was the perfect complement to the flood of information provided by the telegraph: it created an apparent context for the "news of the day" and the other way round, but this kind of context is plainly illusory.

Together, the telegraph and the photograph had achieved the transformation of news from functional information to decontextualized fact (with no connection to our lives). Each of the media that later entered the electronic conversation followed the lead of the telegraph and the photograph. Together, this ensemble of electronic techniques called into being a new world - a peek-a-boo world, where now this event, now that, pops into view for a moment, then vanishes again. And television gave the epistemological biases of the telegraph and the photograph their most potent expression, with a dangerous perfection. Today, television is transforming our culture into one vast arena for show business. It is entirely possible that in the end we will find that delightful. That is exactly what Aldous Huxley feared was coming.

6. The Age of Show Business

First, Postman makes the distinction between a technology and a medium. A technology is merely a machine. A medium is the social and intellectual environment a machine creates. It is a mistake to think that a technology is neutral, every technology rather has an inherent bias. The printing press, in contrast to television, had a clear bias toward being used as a linguistic medium.

Espacially in America television has found in liberal democracy and a free market economy a climate in which its full potencialities as a technology of images could be exploited. The main characteristics of TV are that it offers viewers a variety of subject matter, requires minimal skills to comprehend it, and is largely aimed at emotional gratification. American television, in other words, is devoted entirely to supplying its audience with entertainment. The problem is not that TV presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining. Entertainment is the supraideology of all discourse on TV (it is there for our amusement and pleasure). Even news shows are a format for entertainment, not for education. The most important fact about television is that people watch it, and what they watch are millions of moving pictures of short duration and dynamic variety. It is in the nature of the medium that it must suppress the content of ideas in order to accommodate the requirements of visual interest; that is to say, to accommodate the values of show business. Television is our culture's principal mode of knowing about itself. Therefore - and this is the critical point - how TV stages the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged. It is not merely that on the television screen entertainment is the metaphor of all discourse. It is that off the screen the same metaphor prevails. People no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other.

Meanwhile, the world of entertainment has even conquered such always serious resorts as religion, education, surgery etc.: In Chicago, for example, a Reverend mixes his religious teaching with rock `n' roll music. In phoenics, a by-pass surgery is televised nationwide. And there is no end of this development in sight.

What all of this means is that our culture has moved towards a new way of conducting its business. The nature of its discourse is changing as the demarcation line between what is showbusiness and what is not becomes harder to see with each passing day. Our priests and presidents , our surgeons and lawyers, our ecucators and newscasters need worry less about satisfying the demands of their discipline than the demands of good showmanship. Briefly, There Is No Business But Show Business.

7. Now ... This

This phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world as mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. Frequently used by newscasters, the phrase indicates that you have thought long enough on the previous matter and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or a commercial.

TV programmes are structured so that almost each 8 minute segment may stand as a complete event itself.

We are presented not only with fragmented news but news without context, without consequences and therefore without essential seriousness; that is to say, news as pure entertainment. What's more, the perception of truth rests heavily on the acceptability of the newscaster. It is that TV provides a new definition of truth: the credibility of the teller is the ultimate test of the truth of a proposition. As important as the choice of the proper newscaster is the choice of the proper music the news are embedded in. Another factor for the attractiveness of a programme is its brevity that makes coherence impossible. All these point are requirements of an entertainment show. The viewer always knows that no matter how grave any news may appear, it will shortly be followed by a series of commercials that will defuse the import of the news, in fact render it largely banal. This is a key element in the structure of a news programme and all by itself refutes any claim that TV news is designed as a serious form of public discourse.

The result of all this is that Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the Western world. What is happening here is that TV is altering the meaning of "being informed" by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. (Nonetheless, everyone has an opinion about the events he is "informed" about, but it is probably more accurate to call it emotions rather than opinions). It means misleading information - irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information - information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing. Postman claims that we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorence is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorence to be knowledge?

Moreover, TV is unable to detect (political) lies, or so-called misstatements. Many of them fall in the category of contradictions - exclusive assertions that cannot possibly both , in the same context, be true. Make the context disappear, or fragment it, and contradiction disappears.

The fundamental assumption of the "Now ... This" world of news is not coherence but discontinuity. And in a world of discontinuities, contradiction is useless as a test of truth, because contradiction does not exist.

TV has become the paradigm for our conception of public information and has achieved the power to define the form in which news must come, and it has also defined how we shall respond to it. To top it all, television induces other media to do the same, so that the total information environment brgins to mirror TV. Huxley grasped that it is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcotized by technological diversions.

8. Shuffle off to Bethlehem

Even the church has recognized the power of television and has jumped on the new medium: shows with religious content are shooting up at incredible pace, there are present more than 30 television stations owned and operated by religious organizations. Having watched such religious shows, one can easily make two conclusions:

The first is that on TV, religion, like everything else, is presented as an entertainment. Everything that makes religion an historic, profound and sacred human activity is stripped away; there is no ritual, no dogma, no tradition, no theology and, above all, no spiritual transcendence.

The second conclusion is that this fact has more to do with the bias of TV than with the deficiencies of these "electronic preachers". What makes these TV preachers the enemy of religious experience is not so much their weakness but the weakness of the medium in which they work.

Not everything is televisible. For the most part, "TV preachers" have assumed that what had formerly been done in a church can be done on television without loss of meaning, without changing the quality of the religious experience. There are several characteristics of television and its surround that converge to make authentic religious experience impossible. Our conduct must be congruent with the spiritual event. But this condition is not usually met when we are watching a religious TV programme. If an audience is not immersed in an aura of mystery, them it is unlikely that it can call forth the state of mind required for a non-trivial religious experience. Moreover, the television screen itself is so saturated with our memories of profane events, so deeply associated with the commercial and entertainment worlds that it is difficult for it to be recreated as a frame for sacred events. The television screen wants you to remember that its imagery is always available for your amusement and pleasure. Being aware of this, attracting an audience is the main goal of these "electronic preachers" and their programmes, just as it is for "Baywatch" or "The Late Night Show". Though their messages are trivial, or rather, because their messages are trivial, the shows have high ratings. Televisions strongest point is that it brings personalities into our hearts, not abstractions into our head. That is why God is merely a vague and subordinate character on the screen. There is no doubt that religion can be made entertaining. The question is, by doing so, do we destroy it as an authentic object of culture? The danger is not that religion has become the content of television shows but that television shows may become the content of religion.

9. Reach out and elect someone

Show business is not entirely without an idea of excellence, but its main business is to please the crowd, and its principal instrument is artifice. If politics is like showbusiness, then the idea is not to pursue excellence, clarity or honesty but to appear as if you are. In America the fundamental metaphor for political discourse is the television commercial. By substituting images for claims, the commercial made emotional appeal, not tests of truth, the basis of consumer decisions. Indeed, the TV commercial has orientated business away from making products of value and towards making consumers feel valuable, which means that the business of business has now become pseudo-therapy.

The television commercial has been the chief instrument in creating the modern methods of presenting political ideas. For one thing, the commercial insists on an unprecedented brevity of expression. This is why it disdains exposition, for that takes time and invites argument. Short and simple messages are preferred to long and complex ones. The consequences may be that a person who has seen one million TV commercials might well believe that all political problems have fast solutions through simple measures.

Some argue TV helps choosing the best man over party. The point is that TV does not reveal who the best man is. The reason has, almost entirely, to do with image.

Television commercials provide a slogan, a symbol or a focus that creates for viewers a comprehensive and compelling image of themselves. In the shift from party politics to television politics, the same goal is sought. We are not permitted to know who is the best at being President or Governor, but whose image is best in touching and soothing the deep reaches of our discontent. Just as the television commercial empties itself of authentic product information so that it can do its psychological work, image politics empties itself of authentic political substance for the same reason. In the Age of Show Business and image politics, political discourse is emptied not only of ideological content but of historical content as well since television (a present-centred medium) permits no access to the past. It is not ignorance but a sense of irrelevance that leads to the diminution of history.

Orwell envisioned that government control over printed matter posed a serious threat for Western democracies. But he didn't foresee that tyranny by government might be superseded by another sort of problem altogether, namely the corporate state, which through television now controls the flow of public discourse in America. Today, we have less to fear from government restraints than from TV glut. For example, banning a book in Long Island is merely trivial, whereas TV clearly does impair one's freedom to read, and it does so with innocent hands. Television does not ban books, it simply displaces them.

Politics doesn't prevent us from access to information but it encourages us to watch continously. Just what we watch is a medium which presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, non-historical and non-contextual; that is to say, information packaged as entertainment.

10. Teaching as an amusing activity

"Sesame Street" is a kind of educational television show for children. Its popularity not only among kids but also among parents is due to its entertaining way of educating and to the belief it could take the responsibility of parents to look after their children. "Sesame Street" appeared to be an imaginative aid in solving the growing problem of teaching Americans how to read, while, at the same time, encouraging children to love school. But "Sesame Street" encourages children to love school only if school is like "Sesame Street". Which means that the show undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents. Differently from the class room, television does not promote or require social interaction, development of language, good behavior, asking a teacher questions etc.

The main blaim of "S. S." is for the pretence that it is an ally of the classroom. As a television show, "S. S." does not encourage to love school or anything about school. It encourages them to love television.

Moreover, it is entirely irrelevant whether "S. S." teaches children their letters and numbers for the most important thing about learning is not so much what we learn but how we learn. Television educates by teaching children to do what television-viewing requires of them. And that is as remote from what a classroom requires of them as reading a book is from watching a TV show. Meanwhile, as a result of the electronic revolution, television forges ahead, creating new conceptions of knowledge and how it is acquired. Television has by its power to control the time, attention and cognitive habits of our youth gained the power to control their education.

Postman outlines three demands that form the philosophy of the education which TV offers:

- No prerequisites

Every TV programme must be a complete package in itself. No previous knowledge is to be required.

- No perplexity

In TV teaching, perplexity is the best way to low ratings.

- No exposition

Exposition is the most dangerous enemy of TV teaching since reasoned discourse turn TV into radio. Thus, TV teaching always takes the form of story-telling, everything is placed in a theatrical context.

The name we may properly give to an education without prerequisites, perplexity and exposition is entertainment. Considering the influence TV has on the youth. It is not astonishing that a refashioning of the classroom where both learning and teaching are intended to be vastly amusing activities is taking place. Teachers are increasing the visual stimulation of their lessons, reducing the amount vof exposition and rely less on reading and writing assignments; and are reluctantly concluding that the principal means by which student interest may be engagaed is entertainment.

Of course, there are claims that learning increases when information is presented in a dramatic setting, and that TV can do this better than any other medium. But there is no evidence that this is true, on the contrary, studies have justified that TV viewing does not significantly increase learning, is inferior to and less likely than print to cultivate higher order, inferential thinking.

Of course, a TV production can be used to stimulate interest in lessons, but what is happening is that the content of the school curriculum is being determined by the character of TV. In the end, the main lesson the children will have learmed is that learning is a form of entertainment, and ought to. And they will not rebel if their social studies teacher sings to them the facts about World War II. Or if their physics comes to them on cookies and T-shirts. Indeed, they will expect it and thus will be well prepared to receive their politics, their religion, their news and their commerce in the same delightful way.

11. The Huxleyan Warning

According to Postman, there are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may become depraved. In the first - the Orwellian - culture becomes a prison. In the second - the Huxleyean - culture becomes a comedy.

Of course, there are scores of countries of which the Orwellian prophecy is true: they have come under tyranny and the machinery of thought-control, similar to a prison with insurmountable gates.

But to the western democracies, the teachings of Huxley apply much better: there is no need for wardens or gates. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpatual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a comedy show, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture death is a clear possibility.

Espacially in America, Orwell's prophecies are of small relevance, all the more are Huxley's. For America is most ambitious to accommodate itself to the technological distractions made possible by the electric plug. By ushering in the world of the "Age of Television", America has given the world the clearest available glimpse of the Huxleyan future.

An Orwellian world is much easier to recognize, and to oppose, than a Huxleyan. We are prepared to take arms against those who want to put us in prison, but who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements. What is happening is not the design of an obvious ideology, no "Mein Kampf" announced its coming. It comes as the unintended consequence of a dramatic change in our modes of public conversation. But it is an ideology nonetheless for it imposes a way of life about which there has been no discussion and no opposition. The public has not yet recogniced the point that technology is ideology. To be unaware that technology entails social change, to maintain that technology is neutral, to make the assumption that technology is always a friend to culture is simply stupid. Technology is pure ideology. All that is required to make it stick is a population that devoutly believes in the inevitability of progress.

What could be the solution is what Aldous Huxley suggested. He believed that we are in a race between education and disaster, and he emphasized the necessity of our understanding the politics and epistemology of media. For the problem of the people in "Brave New World" was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.

14 of 14 pages


Postman, Neil - Amusing Ourselves to Death
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Postman, Neil, Amusing, Ourselves, Death
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Stefan Schörghofer (Author), 2001, Postman, Neil - Amusing Ourselves to Death, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 5/25/2002

    postman in deutsch.

    hi stefan, gibt es diese zusammenfassung auch auf deutsch? hab in einer woche diplprüfung und sollte das lernen, ist dringend, lg, aus wien, thomas

  • guest on 11/20/2002

    Good Job!.

    You managed to give an excellent summary of that superior book by my personal hero Neil Postman.
    In one of my next presentations I will have to deal with American culture and therefore your summary gives me a good chance to keep in mind all the important thoughts without reading the book again.

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