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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business Reissue Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Postman's thesis in this brief but articulate book consists of two tenets: (1) The form of communication, to some extent, determines (or is biased toward certain types of) content; (2) Television, as our modern-day uber-form of communication, has biases which are destructive toward the rational mind. TV teaches us to expect life to be entertaining, rather than interesting; it teaches us to expect 8-minute durations of anything and everything (anything else is beyond our attention span); it teach us to be suspicious of argument and discussion, and instead to accept facts at face value.
Furthermore - and, by far, the most important discovery Postman makes in this book - TV teaches us to live a decontextualized life. Just as a TV program has nothing to do with anything before or after it, nor the commericals inside it, we learn to view life as a series of unconnected, random events which are entertaining at best, and bear no significance toward any larger picture.
As a culture, America has lost its ability to integrate experiences into a larger whole; and Postman's explaination for part (not all) of this problem's development makes perfect sense. It certainly is true that the vast majority of Americans are perfectly happy not to develop any sort of framework or philosophy; life is simply life, and one doesn't need to consider it.Read more ›
The first half the book dedicated to Postman's updating of the famous Marshall McLuhan postulate, "the medium is the message." Postman agrees, but takes it even further, stating in chapter one that "the medium is the metaphor." What he means by this is that our language -- how we communicate -- is only a metaphor for reality. We describe as best as we can what we see and know, but our method of communication circumscribes how and what we can actually communicate. Postman argues that whichever mode of communication we chose to communicate with -- be it oral, written, or televisual -- each comes with its own set of limitations. That is to say, "the form excludes the content." Some ideas simply can't be expressed by certain forms, which should be obvious to anybody who has tried to write a sarcastic email without the appropriate smiley face at the end.
Postman then guides the reader through a history of communication, laying out eras where oral, print, or visual communicative forms were culturally dominant. For Postman, the print era (or "age of typography"), which he dates roughly from the Reformation to the 19th century, is when rational argument reached its pinnacle.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Even decades later this book is relevant! A little wordy and repetitive at times and it doesn't offer any good suggestions for improving our plight, but it is very thought... Read morePublished 1 day ago by James Foxall
Sage observations about our society's foibles and hypocrisies.Published 1 month ago by I. M. Iconoclast
If you want to know how todays News and Politics have turned into side-show entertainment then this is the book for you. Though written in 1985 it is still fresh and true.Published 1 month ago by M. Robinson
This is what I find amazing (not amusing): the author himself clearly stating, "when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments…" And then a review... Read morePublished 1 month ago by FJNanic
Although written in the era of the Big Three TV networks, his concept of "information-action ratio" is still essential in understanding how we use news media. Read morePublished 2 months ago by St. Corbinians's Bear
The book is in bad shape and I will not be able to add it to our library at church..Published 2 months ago by Rebecca Vivion