Amusing Ourselves to Death

Topics: Television, Mass media, Marshall McLuhan Pages: 2 (698 words) Published: May 11, 2013
Statistics show that 96.7% of people in America owned television sets in 2011. It wasn’t always like this though. There used to be a time where the only form of public discourse, the corporation of conversations vital to a culture’s survival, was fostered by Typography. Neil Postman explains in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death; Public Discourse in the age of show business, the transition from the Age of Typography to the Age of Television. In the beginning of the book he explains that this shift has dramatically changed the context and meaning of public discourse. Postman feared that the love of television would grow so deeply that people would watch and the message would be conveyed as entertainment and not a serious matter. Postman theorized that new technologies would eventually culminate in television, forcing typography and its demands into the background while creating a new metaphor that would value fragmented, incoherent, context-free information. The result? People who take television seriously are on the ‘verge of amusing ourselves to death.’

Neil Postman divides his book into two sections. In the first part of the book he talks about a time when the only form of mass media was through Typography. But now days, the form of mass media is purely based on television. Postman describes this shift as “The decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television” (8). He then goes on to say that the form of communication affects the content of the culture. As an example he uses a society that primarily uses smoke signals is not likely to talk about philosophy; it would be too difficult. Just as on television, a person with an ugly body won’t look good on television and therefore might not be elected as President. A person’s body has no relevance to ones ideas. Postman is trying to explain that on television, imagery ultimately reigns.

As a result, Postman then goes on to say our media has become an epistemology. Our media...
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