Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

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Neil Postman, "Amusing Ourselves to Death -- Public discourse in the age of show-business" This book is a classic: everybody knows it, and everything has been written about it. Let me write some more. Postman's book caused a lot of public discussion in the mid-eighties, but it is now as relevant as ever, possibly more so. Today, it has almost become an axiom of our society that the answer to the questions raised by our technological advances lie in the application of further technology, some of it undeveloped and possibly speculative as of now. In the field of media, this has led to the hypothesis that the messages we want to communicate, and the media we choose to communicate them, are largely orthogonal issues, which is why we can analyze and quantify media, talk about the 'bandwidth' (in bits/second) of, say, a computer animation, or television viewing, or reading a book.

Does it not make sense, then, to pick the medium with the highest bandwidth, and to develop media with better bandwidth, shorter access time etc.? The main point of this book is that this hypothesis is wrong. It focuses on the shift from written text to television as the main mode of cultural communication, and tries to analyze how it affected our culture, how the means of communication influence the content that is communicated. According to Postman, it changed the way people perceive, it changed the way people are even capable of perceiving, it changed the things people think, it changed the cultural conception of what is and what is not, our conception of truth.

Postman argues that each medium has its bias, that it is better at communicating some messages than others, and that it consequently tends to be used for those messages. For television, this...