Technology and Culture: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

Technology has given way to massive transformation of individuals’ cultures. Technological typologies such as television, tweeter face book, ipads, ipods, and YOU tube occupy a special niche in culture. In fact, technology ushers in an era of a thorough suppression of the traditional aspects, creating a replacement with new shifts. Actually, the society is irresistibly falling prey to the negative influence of technology. As Neill Postman postulates, TV medium is gradually making a “descent into a vast triviality.” Indeed, this is both a timely and a fact to grapple with, towards the assessment of the new forms of communication and the quality of culture. Technology ushers in new shifts, eroding the traditional and cultural person committed to value for people, search for knowledge, ethics, and the search for alleviatory strategies to any prevailing predicament.

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The TV culture has seen the eventual extinction of a true sense of originality among people. For instance, a vast majority of people have fallen prey to the fictitious truths aired on the television. The aspect of critique and logic is under extinction. In actual sense, a vast majority of people are trapped in a cocoon of pictorial aesthetics on television devoid of comprehensive reasoning. The audience is more superficial, with content as a minor. As Neill Postman observes, a thrilling October 16, 1854, when Lincoln and Douglas made lengthy speeches, accorded utter patience, as each of these took about three to five hours on the dais (44). This is a rare gesture in the present day, as masses succumb to ideological myopia. The audience in the Lincoln’s day took a major interest in the content as regards the dynamics of political education among other issues. In addition, people were able to have ample time to analyze the content presented. Conversely, this is dwindling as people show preference to a quick rush over issues with pictorial aesthetics at the expense of content, compromising the culture of reasoning and logic.

The new information and communication trends have seen subjectivism set in, particularly in addressing topical and controversial subjects. The new information trends such as TV and radio tend to suppress opposite opinions. Additionally, the current media preoccupies itself with trivial issues. The examination of earlier modes of communication such as those of the Lincoln day reveals a conspicuous missing link between the informers and the targeted audience. Lincoln and Douglas were more open to criticism than it is today. Enthusiasm, applause, recurrent questioning, and critique characterized communication in the earlier days (The typographic mind 44).

The current audience is marred with a diluted intelligence deriving from TV culture. The audience in the Lincoln day was well versed with intricacies of the political discourse, so well accustomed to its dynamics (Postman 47). Additionally, the audience remained committed to a studious inquiry into the issues in question. Conversely, Neil Postman observes that the current audience i.e., post 1985 audience prefers a down-to-earth approach to issues, and the usage of plain language. The present generation perpetually loses a fine grip over issues, succumbing to volumes of information marred with triviality (47).

Television culture breeds incompatibility. This is a prominent occurrence particularly in news making. The audience today is without a voice particularly with reference to the lengthy commercials amidst important issues. While the audience during the Lincoln’s times had a chance to social events such as bands, rhetorical performances, and liquor, this was never room for triviality as regards the point at issue (Postman 47). Conversely, the contemporary audience is lost between the actual and rhetoric. For instance, one has chance to listen to violence in a certain part of the world, to be interrupted by a commercial on loans and banking. This is utterly derailing, given that the issue on violence warrants unsurpassed attention.

Telegraphy has seen the relevant become irrelevant with tangible lapse in objectivity. There seems to be massive flow of information without the audience in mind. In fact, issues aiming at mind captivation remain predominant such as sex and violence (Postman 66). Telegraphy has seen major shifts occur in the forming of attitudes and perceptions. The audience appears fascinated at issues such as war and sex, impressed by civil disobedience and anarchy, even worse. The media today aims at obtaining competitive advantage by according prominence to triviality.

Neil Postman postulates that, telegraphy has seen amplification of irrelevancies and a recurrent erosion of proper moral standards. For instance, the value of the public discourse has been pushed to the peril. Generally, there is quite a visible lapse of the value system. For instance, the television medium, social networks have allowed the public to engage in gross tribal and ethnic reasoning. The television media focuses more on emotion, airing pictorials with tribal overtones and undertones. Neil Postman observes that, prior to the telegraphic era; the audience was more accommodative, with commitment to relevant issues and building on lasting alleviatory strategies as the major preoccupation (Postman 69). Conversely, the current media appears to be the most accessible weapon of disintegration of the masses. Today, humanity engages in the despicable acts in history, out of passive media incitement.

The new technology has given way to information glut. The present culture experiences major shifts derived from the incongruence between information and action. Neill Postman labels it the problem of information glut (Postman 69). While information is power, quality of what is aired should take preeminence. The media appears to have its target of informing the masses, but the opposite has happened, misinforming. For instance, a particular piece of news may have other seemingly related stories, but in the end, the recipient losses grip over the issue in question. Owners the technological equipment, aim at profit maximization at the expense of content. The available media has its focus on commercials, and airing what sells to maintain market buoyancy. The media has been subjective in its approach on topical matters such as politics. Where candidates seek to be appealing to the electorate, technology is the only way to speedy analysis into chances for winning. Politicians spend more resources on airtime. The politician has ample to market the policies in the manifesto. However, this is a great disservice to the audience, as some information is utterly irrelevant.

The recent technology trends have seen the eventual extinction of morals. In fact, children choose to listen to television at the expense of quality time with their parents. For instance, in a survey titled the Generation M: Media in the lives of 8-18 year olds, 51% of youth reported that they spend more most of their time on television programs (Grussec & Lastings 405). Given that the TV content is without sex material, the disappearance of childhood is inevitable. Children are gradually becoming immune to discipline and wise counsel, with technology as the readily available mentor (Berns 14).

The current media have denied the masses an opportunity to read, analyze, and review the content in question. The present generation appears to have reached complacency in the analysis of what is aired on television and other media. The audience today focuses more on entertainment and leisure. This was never the case with the early audience. The printed word in the eighteenth and nineteenth century had a different approach to issues i.e. reading and mastery of content. Actually, Neill Postman recalls the monopoly of the printed word for its intellect and crucially, attention (61). The current media has entertainment take precedence over topical issues, with a stingy allocation of time. In Postman’s observation, the print media was more informative in the early America (61).

Telegraphy is accountable for information with diluted meaning, facilitating a prioritization of issues aiming at changing the focus of the audience. While Breese Morse envisaged a change in the society, by turning one neighborhood into a country, this was the genesis of the disappearance of value for information. In fact, Neill Postman postulates that, telegraphy turned information into a commodity that could be sold and bought despite its relevance and meaning (65). This is in tandem with Henry David Thoreau remark that the fastest news, in the era of telegraphy is that Prince Adelaide has whooping cough (Postman 65). The paparazzi are out to air on celebrities with sex scandals. Perhaps, it would be more educative and fulfilling if they maintained focus on tangible issues such as ecological sustainability, Aid, graft, and other developmental issues.

Personality disorders derive from technology. Technology has seen the admittance of distractions in personality. The earlier audience was accustomed to proper personality traits such as, tolerance, patience, attention, and pluralist tendencies among others. However, this appears to be taking a different dimension. Human relationships appear to be vague, abstract, impersonal, and generally competitive (Stivers 50). For instance, this is very conspicuous in electioneering periods where rivalry factions use every avenue such as television, face book, tweeter, and YOU tube for dissension. While conflict is an aspect of human interaction, the present technological frameworks aggravate the condition. The earlier audience may have had occasions of dissension; but this was arrived at with lengthy discussions based on logic to arrive at a particular conclusion.

Technology breeds anomie. This encapsulates the failure of social groups to regulate the behavior of the individual (Stivers 49). As individuals, derive satisfaction from the existent social networks, at the expense of group interaction, the individual becomes immune to the influence of the group. In addition, such scenarios breed social exclusion. The society also becomes a loose collection of groups with undefined relationships. Neil Postman juxtaposes the people in Lincoln days with the current generation, highlighting on the missing link between relations. The 21st century has people whose contentment is centered on technological frameworks such as face book, tweeter, ipads, and ipods.

Ethnocentrism derives from technology. The age of new technological trends evidenced by face book, tweeter, television, and iPods among others, propagate the phenomenon of a globalised culture. The media has attached prominence to some cultures at the expense of others. For instance, the western music and dress code dominates television even within the African and Asiatic settings (Lessig 25). Creativity appears to be dwindling. There is a sense of cultural might particularly among the Americans. For instance, the Japanese are lovers of fanatics and comics. In fact, 40% of their publications are mainly fanatics (Lessig 25). To the typical American, manga, an art in Japan, is unattractive and does not qualify for an American’s schedule. This reveals the alienated nature of the present technology. Americans have accustomed themselves to Ernest Hemingway and writers of European or American descent (Leissig 26). Given that the world is multicultural, then the approaches used by the available technological frameworks operate to the peril of cultural relativism.

In sum, Neill Postman’s thought about technology and culture is both accurate and timely. Technology appeared to have ushered a paradigmatic shift, but to society’s peril. Ignorance, intolerance, moral decadence, short-term relations, and anomie characterize the era of communication technology. The audience’s major preoccupation in pictorial aesthetics at the expense of content, as regards the subject aired on television and other media. The new technology is irresistibly a fact to grapple with, in the shaping of culture. There seems to be a perpetual detachment of individuals from the society. For instance, children prefer to use iPads, iPods, and other social interaction, leaving minimal room for parents and adults. Technology witnesses the eventual extinction of morality, decorum, studious inquiry, and a lapse in proper interaction among other drawbacks.

Works Cited

Berns, Roberta. Child, Family, School, Community: Socialization and Support. California: Wardsworth Publishers, 2010. Print.

Grusec, Joan E., & Hastings, Paul D. Handbook of Socialization: Theory and Research. New York: Gullford Press, 2007. Print.

Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: The Penguin Press.

Misa, Thomas. Leonardo to the Internet: Technology to the Internet: Technology and Culture from the Renaissance to the Internet. The John Hopkins university press, 2011.Print.

Postman, Neill. Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Stivers, Richard. Shades of Loneliness: Patholologies of a Technological Society. Boulevard: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004. Print.




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