Amusing Ourselves to Death
In today’s society, we are fed breaking news in a matter of seconds. We are limited to 140 characters on social media networks and we can literally listen to books instead of reading them. In Neil Postman’s book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Postman recognizes the potential harm of today’s electronic society. The main idea of Postman’s thinking is that the image-based media affect’s the quality of information we receive. Postman states that the form in which we receive our information has a direct relationship to the quality of that information. There are two types of cultures Postman identifies: the print, “or typographic” culture, and the television culture. Postman’s idea that image-based media lessens the quality of information relates to these to these cultures because the television culture is the culture that these images are coming from. The typographic culture relates to his idea because this is what he believes is the most effective way to present information; one must be able to sit down and read the information for it to be truly effective. Postman believes the typographic culture was started by the invention of the printing press. In the 1770’s, reading was beginning to be an everyday activity. The printing press allowed for the first form of media, newspapers, to be widely distributed. This meant everyone could have the opportunity to read, it was not limited to the wealthy or high-class. The printing press was the way that society could carry conversations with one another. Since the typographic culture encouraged using one’s rational mind and interpreting the written information for themselves, it was normal for someone to be able to listen to seven hour lectures. The people were able to speak, write, and comprehend complex sentences. This was because the typographic culture created a disciplined mind, which is very rare in today’s society. The other culture that Postman describes is our current culture with television. Television has given stories plain and simple to our society today due to the decrease in vocabulary and intelligence. Many people cannot understand the complex vocabulary of the 18th century anymore. Today’s news is seen rather than heard or read. We see our news on the television and newspapers have become irrelevant. We, as a society, have become more visual and have gotten away from reading and improving our intelligence or vocabulary. Citizens and students aren’t able to process and understand information like people could during the time of the typographic culture. Postman also states that the television culture has even changed, but not necessarily for the better. News that used to be streamed on television at least sparked decision making and action, but today it is merely used for interest and curiosity. News has become purely entertainment. The television culture has impacted three large areas of society: news, politics, and religion. Although Postman recognizes the effects of media on today’s culture, he acknowledges that entertainment is not a bad thing. Postman instead states that the way in which we choose to live in entertainment is what makes it a danger to society. The television industry has shaped news into pure entertainment. It is impossible to avoid aspects of entertainment when watching the news, whether it is a simple joke from newscasters or entertainment segments of the news. The news in today’s society should be meant to inform the public. Postman does not make television and the news out to be a negative thing but he acknowledges the fact that not all subject matter should be made as entertaining. Postman also brings up the fact that even the newscasters are selected for pure entertainment. Almost all newscasters are chosen because they are attractive and entertaining to watch. This has...
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