Sunday, February 3, 2008

Postman Discussion Part One

On February 15th we will have our in class discussion of Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death which is a required reading in this class. There will be both an online and offline component to this discussion.

By midnight Wednesday, February 13 I need each of you to post a comment to this blog entry and identify one statement made by Postman that you agree with and one statement made by postman that you disagree with. For each provide a sentence or two explaining why you agree or disagree.

This is worth 10 points toward your blogging grade. Not many, but you may need them later. To get the point you need to post by the deadline.


leng-jia said...

I will start with a point that I vehemently disagree with, “As I suggested earlier, it is implausible to imagine that anyone like our 27th president, the multi-chinned, three hundred-pound William Howard Taft.....The grossness of a three-hundred-pound image, even a talking one, would easily overwhelm any logical or spiritual subtleties conveyed by speech.” This is more than absurd as evidenced by a popular character in the news quite often now, Mike Huckabee; (who happened to weigh 110 pounds more than he weighs now when he was elected to the office of Governor in Arkansas.
Something I agree with is the idea that the invention of the clock made us live our lives differently. That we have become time-servers seems undeniable to me, I know that I often look at my watch several times in an hour and in those moments I cease to look at time in eternities scale but in the trivial seconds that I can't wait to pass.

Garrett Horvath said...

Garrett Horvath
Part I (Agree & Disagree)
“It is implausible to imagine that anyone like our twenty-seventh President, the multi-chinned, three-hundred-pound William Howard Taft, could be put forward as a presidential candidate in today’s world.” - Neil Postman

The media and the American people in today’s world are obsessed with “image.” However, if we can currently have a female as well as a black former-Muslim male running for president, I can imagine a three-hundred-pound presidential candidate.
“We are no longer fascinated or perplexed by its machinery.” (The television set)
-Neil Postman
Modern day television sets are widely available in all shape and sizes. Today, we no longer care how they work or how the moving images are projected onto the screen; Americans just want to become engulfed in the service it provides and what is on the screen at a given time.

Aimee Gerber said...

"Without a medium of to create its form, news of the day does not exist"
The book uses makes this sentence out to be something its not. THey make is sound liek there was never any news of the day when there really always was. It just wasn't as promenent as it is today.
Today we watch the news and see everything happening form our home town to whats going on in Aunstralia. If there was not a medium here we would still hear about it see it etc. The story just wouldn't be as rapidly exploding as it is now.

What I do sort of Agree with is that news has become a "media event". Notice, I said become and not always has been, like the book decribes it when it says: "It is, quite precisely, a media event" I think that media has become more of and entertainment medium versus a source of information. We do learn from it but at the same time it has to be interesting to get on the air because otherewise we wouldnt watch it and the channel would lose ratings. And ratings are what keep people with a job so the stories have to be somewhat interesting andanymore i think they look more fo that then a lot else.

Melissa said...


"Although the Federal Communications Act makes no mention of it those without camera appeal are excluded from addressing the public about what is called 'the news of the day.'"
-Neil Postman on Journalists & Newscasters focusing more on glamour than scripts.

I agree with this to a point because I believe that not all broadcasters focus on looks there are those who do focuse on the news they are delivering, but I do think there is those who are more concerned with how they look on television.


"Although the constitution makes no mention of it, it would appear that fat people are now effectively excluded from running for high political office."
-Neil Postman

I disagree with this statement because if you look at our current vice president Dick Cheney he is some what heavy-set. I personally think he made it into office because of his knowledge not on his body image.

Rachel B. said...

On the bottom of page 22, Postman states that "the concept of truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression." This idea is reiterated on page 78 when he says "...there is no subject of public interest--politics, news, education, religion, science, sports--that does not find its way to television...all public understanding of these subjects is shaped by the biases of television." I think this is very relevant to our culture and to the media of today. Because of television and the ability of newscasters or producers to show exactly what they want to, we are seeing the "truth" according to them and not necessarily as it really is.

On page 60, Postman asserts that in earlier times, Americans knew public figures "by their written words...not by their looks or even their oratory." Then he names more recent public figures and says that an image will come to mind more quickly than words. This is probably true to some extent, but I disagreed with his insinuation that we no longer remember the words of famous people anymore. I don't think this is true; while we can focus more on their images thanks to modern technology, I think Postman goes a little far to assume that Americans are tuning out their words altogether.

Cody, B said...


"Although the constitution makes no mention of it, it would appear that fat people are now effectively excluded from running for high political office."
-Neil Postman

I would have to agree with this statement. Many of us are using Dick Cheney as an example of how much weight he has gained, but when he was elected he was in great shape. Our society and media today puts so much emphasis on looks and health, especially on positions of power thats all we focus on, not their credentials.


"The trouble with such people is that thy do not take television seriously enough. For like the printing press, television is nothing less than a philosophy of rhetoric." (pg. 16-17)
-Neil Postman

I would have to argue that the television plays an important tool in out society today. We might not conger around the T.V. today and watch one of the many space shuttles take off like we did twenty years ago. We use it for other forms of messages, like seeing our favorite candidate speak on his views f how this country could be improved, or to watch our favorite sitcom with our families. In the end the T.V. and the newspaper are similar, they both entertain and educate.

Katie said...

"It[every medium of communication]is always implicated in the ways we define and regulate our ideas of truth." -Postman, pg.18

I agree that today's society is largely influenced by forms of communication, more specifically reality and political shows. People who watch reality shows may feel pressured to look like the stars in order to "fit-in" and therefor makeover their entire appearance. Likewise, political shows may cause viewers to change their opinion on an issue when they don't necessarily want to in the first place.


"It [memorization] is almost functionally irrelevant and certainly not considered a high sign of intelligence." - Postman, pg. 25

I believe that memorization can prove to be a high sign of intelligence. This is assuming that the person memorizing a speech or a law takes the time to learn what they are memorizing. By caring enough to memorize something in order to appear more professional, I think that it is certainly an intelligent decision.

BeckysCommBlog said...

Neil Postman makes many claims in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. As a result, there were many things that I both agreed and disagreed with. First, I agreed with Postman when he said, “truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression.” He went on to further explain this statement when he said, “truth is a kind of cultural prejudice.” In both of these statements Postman is making the point that people see truth differently. Different cultures have different understandings of what the truth is.
Despite many of the good points Postman makes, he also has flaws in his arguments. I believe one of his largest flaws is evident on the bottom of page twenty-four. He states, “Intelligence is primarily defined as one’s capacity to grasp the truth of things.” Intelligence is such a broad concept that it is inappropriate to try and define it in one sentence. Further, there is no single agreed upon definition of intelligence, and to suggest that it is simply the ability to grasp the truth is unfounded. The arguments he makes to back up his statement about intelligence are not effective, and do not apply to the media today.

Shayna said...

“Speech of course, is the primal and indispensable medium. It made us human, keeps us human, and in fact defines what human means.”

I agree with this quote by Postman because speech truly is the most important means of communication. Sometimes the best way to spread a message is by word of mouth.

“America’s journalists, i.e., television newscasters, have not missed the point. Most spend more time with their hair dryers than with their scripts, with the result that they comprise the most glamorous group of people this side of Las Vegas.”

I disagree with this quote by Postman because I believe that journalists do not get enough credit for what they do. Although they are part of the media, which most people may view as a negative thing, I believe that they are hard working and spend countless hours meeting deadlines in order to provide the public with the latest news.

Jamie Rae said...

Postman writes about how the importance of the written word has changed from a long time ago. He says that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries important people were known for and recognized by their words. He challenges his reader to think of some recent public figures and says that more than likely a picture will come to mind. "Of words, almost nothing will come to mind. This is the difference between thinking in a word-centered culture and thinking in an image-centered culture." (p. 61)

I agree that reading is not the main way of obtaining information; most people, including myself, complain when presented with reading a text book or sitting through a lecture. Recognizing someone by what he or she looks like is so much more important that reading and remembering what he said the night before. Also, we learn what important figures have said by watching TV; not reading about it or listening to lectures.

“To an extent difficult to imagine today, earlier Americans were familiar not only with the great legal issues of their time but even with the language famous lawyers had used to argue their cases.” (p. 57)

I disagree with this statement because I think that there is a great deal of Americans who are up to date and interested in legal issues. I also find it hard to believe that absolutely everyone in early America was completely in tune with legal issues. There might have been a greater percentage of people who were up to date with legal and political issues, but there were also less people in the country then. Also, Americans might not legal jargon in everyday conversation, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t know what lawyers are saying. Slang is very prevalent. This statement makes it seem like Postman thinks people now are dumber than in the early years of America’s existence.

Leah's Blog said...

"Intelligence implies that one can dwell comfortably without pictures, in a field of concepts and generalizations."
I disagree with this comment for a couple reasons.
First, pictures can help amplify the knowledge being attained. Therefore, if anything pictures or any type of visual can provide a better understanding for anyone, even the most intelligent person. Second, some people are visual learners and just because that is the way they prefer to learn and because that is the way that works best for them, doesn’t make them any less intelligent than the next person. Today, there are some stories told and based mainly on pictures that need to be interpreted. Lastly, who is Postman to define intelligence or say what is implied by the word?
I understand that before the statement he writes, “in a print-culture,” but I believe that this statement is not justified even if you do live in a print-culture.

“For countless Americans, seeing, not reading became the basis for believing.”
The phrase we all so often hear confirms this statement, “seeing is believing.” In today’s society many people will only read stories in newspapers or magazines that have pictures or visuals to go with them. Also, people are more likely to believe a story and be more interested in the story if someone says, “I saw it on T.V.” rather than, “I read it somewhere.” I know that the majority of my friends, family and I prefer to “watch” the news than “read” it. Lastly, when it comes to advertising, more people are likely to believe advertisements if they see someone they know use the product, or watch someone demonstrate on an infomercial or commercial than they are to read about the product.

Amy's Blog said...

"It is hard to imagine the present occupant of the White House being capable of constructing such clauses in similar circumstances"(Postman 46). I think that in today's society it is a different way of life, the way people speak and act. The people in the White House currently may present the issues in a different manner but I feel that they are getting the same point across to the people.
"The memorization of a poem, a menu, a law, or most anything else is merely charming. It is almost always functionally irrelevant and certainly not considered a sign of high intelligence"(Postman 25). I agree with what Postman said here. To me memorizing things does not demonstrate how intelligent you are. The ability to take that information that you have memorized and apply it to something else is what helps display your intelligence. So I feel that Postman was correct in making that statement.

Megan said...

Postman states, “[In the 18th and 19th centuries] they assumed potential buyers were literate, rational, and analytical. The history of newspaper advertising in America may be considered as a metaphor of the descent of the typographic mind, beginning with reason and ending with entertainment.”

I agree with this statement and believe that it also reflects upon advertising today. Most advertisers today produce ads that are directed towards a literate, rational, and analytical culture. For example, the recent Super Bowl commercials all strived to produce the best ads and in doing so the advertisers counted on the consumers’ knowledge to make the ad effective.

An ad that effectively did this was the Coke Cola ad. It was left up to the viewers’ knowledge to realize that they were seeing pictures of central park and several iconic midtown buildings. To make this an effective ad, Coke advertisers were assuming that Americans knew who Underdog, Stewie, and Charlie Brown were and would be happy with Charlie Brown as the one to get the coke. Therefore, the ad began with reasoning – two characters both want a coke, and ended with entertainment – this was the twist in the ad when Charlie Brown grabbed the coke.

Postman also states, “Most of our daily new is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about, but cannot lead to any meaningful action.”

I disagree with this statement. I think that news affects us a lot more than they are giving it credit for. News of an event such an attack or a war causes people to sign up to for the military. People who become politicians, doctors, and environmentalists probably see stories in the news such as ones about the government, cancer research, and global warming that prompt them to go into those fields. Maybe not every story affects our daily lives, however the events in the news does have an impact on how we live.

Christina said...

1. Postman states, "The news of the day is a figment of our technological imagination. It is, quite precisely, a media event."

I agree with this statement to a great extent because I feel as though, in today's world, the news is just that - a media event. People tune into the news because they want to hear what dramatic events are going on around the world. They lead themselves to believe they are not watching for the drama, but because they want to genuinely know about what's happening. But think about it: would you watch the news if everything was going well and there was no drama?

2) Postman also states, " The best things on television are its junk, and no one and nothing is seriously threatened by it."

I disagree with this statement because while so many people like to watch reality shows (including me), I do not think they're the best shows on TV. I think people get way more out of factual shows that aren't considered junk than they do from the "junk." Sure, the junk might be funny and entertaining, but I would not go as far as to say that it's the best thing about TV.


Brittany Donegan said...

" As I suggested earlier, it is implausible to imagine that anyone like our tweny-seventh President, the multi-chinned, three-hundred-pound William Howard Taft, could be put forward as a presidential candidate in today's world."

I can easily disagree with this statement by taking a look at the current candidates for the upcoming presidential election. Many people have said that the United States is not ready for a woman president or an african-american president. Well, as you can see, both of which are running for president, and Obama, an african-american candidate, is in the lead with Clinton, a female democrat, is not far behind. So yes, the world does rely heavily on appearance to make judgements, however when it is a judgement that is important enough to affect our lives, I dont believe that appearance should have a lot to do with it.

"Television is the command center in subtler ways as well. Our use of other media, for example, is largely orchestrated by television."

I definitely agree with this statement, because I know that it undoubtedly occurs in my life. In order to know what magazines to buy, what movies to go see, and what websites to use, i rely on television. Television is so commonly used, that we do not even realize that we are using it in order to access other forms of media.

Allison said...


"The telegraph made a three-pronged attack on typography's definition of discourse, introducing on a large scale irrelevance, impotence, and incoherence." -Postman, pg. 65

Postman (and Thoreau) are exactly right. If the telegraph had never been invented, we wouldn't have had the radio, the television, the internet, etc. either. Our information would come to us after days and maybe even weeks. We would only get the important information and not have this message overload concerning things that don't really have an effect on our lives. For example, if I didn't have the internet to read my news everyday, I obviously wouldn't know what's going on in the world. But if I hadn't known about these things before hand, it wouldn't really bother me that I didn't know.


(After he has discussed television and its uses in the U.S. vs. its uses in parts of the world where people use it as if it were a radio) "For these reasons and more television will not have the same meaning or power as it does in America, which is to say, it is possible for a technology to be so used that its potentialities are prevented from developing and its social consequences kept to a minimum."

I completely disagree with this statement. When television was first introduced, its purpose was to be simply a televised radio-like broadcast. And it has developed into what it is today. In parts of the world where it is still used as its original purpose, I believe it will someday develop as it has in the U.S. It may take awhile and even be decades behind, but it will happen. Someone somewhere will decide that's a good market to appeal to, and it will happen.

ShaunaO said...

One statement that I agree in from “Amusing Ourselves to Death” is that “all culture is a conversation, or more precisely, a corporation of conversations, conducted in a variety of symbolic modes.” The conversation doesn’t necessarily have to be one of speaking, but can include the history, or pictures that define the culture.
The statement I disagree with is that “speech is the primal and indispensable medium. It made us human, keeps us human, and in fact defines what human means.” Although speech is important, there are many different ways of communicating, so I don’t think that speech can define someone.

Anonymous said...

" To understand the role that the printed word played in providing an earlier America with its assmptions about intelligence, truth and the nature of discrourse, one must keep in view that the act of readint in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had an entirely different quality to it than the act of reading does today."

I agree with this statement because I don't think that people read print as much they did in past years and centuries. We've become more dependent on things like computers and televisions for the word. Many people even listen to novels on tape because that's the only way they'll have time to fit a novel into their busy schedule. I definitley believe that Postman is correct in saying that the printed word was more valuable years ago.

"And if he were, he would surley do so at the risk of burdening the comprehension or concentration of his audience."

I disagree with this statement, simply because I think Postman is making a huge assumption with society today. Though we don't get our information and intelligence from the same sources that people did in the past, it's too much to assume that they are not intellectually strong enough to handle something profound.

Nicky Piszczor said...

Postman Part I

"Television is the command center in subtler ways as well. Our use of other media, for example, is largely orchestrated by television. Through it we learn what telephone system to use, what movies to see, what books, records and magazines to buy, what radio programs to listen to." p. 78

I definitely agree that television has to be the most powerful form of media. Television has the ability to persuade our decisions especially through advertising and product placement.


"Today, we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration..." p. 3

I think that Las Vegas is not really the city we could look to as our symbol of our culture. Las Vegas is the "city that never sleeps," and I think that in many ways if people are too busy not sleeping, they are busy working and not entertaining themselves. The world today seems too obsessed with work. Too many people are workaholics.

Kristin said...

Disagree: "Today, we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot-high cardboard picture of a slot machine and a chorus girl."

I disagree with Postman's idea of the center of American focus, and ideals being Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a symbol of the extreme of our society, more than the normal - and definitely not what our "aspiration" is. In it's place, I would say that California is more of what we strive for. Choosing Las Vegas as our "metaphor of national character" is a little too pessimistic, honestly.

Agree: I agree with Postman's concept of the shift of importance from oral rhetoric to literacy. He states that originally the Greeks and ancient tribes put their focus on the oral tradition, making it their standard of intelligence, and truth. In the more recent centuries, the focus on literacy has become more and more important. Being able to memorize is one thing, but if you've read and understood the ancient classics, it is considered high intelligence. For day to day functionality, being able to read and write well and effectively is essential - being able to speak well is only a perk.

Anonymous said...


“It is implausible to imagine that anyone like our twenty-seventh President, the multi-chinned, three-hundred-pound William Howard Taft, could be put forward as a presidential candidate in today’s world.”

Although I feel that “image” plays an important role in America and its media, however, most Americans do not fall into that obsessive “image” of skinny and attractive. Therefore, I feel that an overweight presidential candidate in today’s world would be completely plausible considering that most of today’s Americans do not fall into that category of skinny and attractive.


“Speech of course, is the primal and indispensable medium. It made us human, keeps us human, and in fact defines what human means.”

I agree with this statement because without speech America would be lost. It is our main form of communication and the easiest, and without it, America and the media would not be where it is today.

Gary D. said...

Agree: I agree with Postman's paragraph describing how, by the late nineteenth century, advertising was beginning to become less about understanding and more about appealing to passions. He supported this statement by describing how the use of the slogan sprang up around the same time.

I also agree with this statement because now commercials rarely try to appeal to reason but to entertainment. Some commercials seem totally random compared to the product they are selling. Also, commercials try to help viewers imagine how much better their lives would be with the certain product.

Disagree: The comment I disagree with Postman about is regarding how nobody talks about television only what is on television. It seems like now people want to talk about their television. People want to have the latest features on their televisions. They want to have the most current plasma, hd-tv, LCD, flat screen, 50", cook dinner and do it itself homework television.

Americans' socio-economic status now seems to depend on what type of television they have. It used to be good to have one television in a house. Now commercials and the media appeal to Americans' passions and try to show how their lives would be improved if they had at least one modern picture advanced television.

Amy said...

I like when postman referred to Las Vegas as a metaphor of our national character and aspirations. That was true in the 80’s when the book was written and can still apply today. The culture and even the news revolve around entertainment.

I don’t agree with his statement "the decline of a print-based epistemology and the accompanying rise of a television-based epistemology has had grave consequences on public life” Of course as times change the way in which we share knowledge will too. In no way am I saying that communicating through means of television is necessarily better. I just don’t believe it’s detrimental to society.

Chris Norris said...

Don't expect the 10 points but just wanted to make sure I gave my opinion.

On page 18 of chapter 2, Postman says 'Whatever the original and limited context of its use may have been , a medium has the power to fly far beyond the context into new an unexpected ones." Powerful to me because I feel that the messages media portrays are all what we make of them and how we interpret them. We talked in class today about this and how the media shapes our understanding of things. I think this all depends on how we interpret what we see. Underage sex, drugs violence, etc can be interpreted by most as being wrong but others may see that as something worthy enough for attention on tv, so they may try to emulate those actions. This concept also cna be related to print vs. visual media in that when we read, we develop our own visulizations of what we are reading about. Whereas, tv/visual mediums provide those flashy, distinct, and direct pictures directly to our brain but we must turn our filters on and decipher reality from non-reality, right from wrong, and accurate from inaccurate.

Earlier in Chapter 1, Postman talks about how if Howard Taft were president of the US today, he would be greatly ridiculed mainly due to his image. We also talked about this in class today and how much the public bases their decisions on a person's image. I agree with the importance of inage, but do not feel like Taft would be under fire if he were our president. This country hasnt exactly based their last 2 presidential decisions on image (ie: grey-haired, unfaithful Clinton and studdering, oblivious-looking G.W.). At this point in our country's history, we are desperate for a solid leader and someone who will get the country back in line. At some point, people do turn away from how someone looks and judges based on whats inside. Granted, I dont know how good of a president Taft would be for the country this day in age, but I truly feel that people are desperate enough for a good president, they would put image aside. Now if we're voting on the next american idol...he wouldnt stand a chance.