Amusing ourselves to death
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Amusing Ourselves to Death. Katie Mortka, Yasmeen Tarazi, Brent Jones, Sam Ericsson. Themes/Ideas. Postman is discussing how society today has become so dependent on the television. Discusses the ramifications of this dependency Major decline in the printed word, speeches not as important

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Amusing Ourselves to Death

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Amusing ourselves to death

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Katie Mortka, Yasmeen Tarazi, Brent Jones, Sam Ericsson

Themes ideas


Postman is discussing how society today has become so dependent on the television.

Discusses the ramifications of this dependency

Major decline in the printed word, speeches not as important

News has become something that is not taken seriously- fragmented, meant to entertain and attract large audience- rather then give people legitimate information about the world they live in.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Postman starts of by letting the reader know that he will be discussing the decline of the age of typography and the rise of the age of television.

Postman offers examples of how medium controls messages- such as smoke signals, written alphabet, microscopes, IQ, and mathematics.

Also discuses human conversation- conversation affects the content of the culture.

Society that uses smoke signals would most likely not discuss philosophy. Similarly, person with ugly body will not look good on television and therefore wont be elected President. Conclusion- TV works against the content of philosophy.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

In oral cultures, proverbs are very important- “they are incessant. They form a substance of thought itself- cultures relied on proverbs to determine what was right vs. wrong

In modern court, print has more resonance. Speech though still had some- testimony and juries

Academia- written word is truer than spoken, despite oral exams.

To defend earlier point, Postman gives examples of court rooms and in universities- where printed word trumps oral speech. People more likely to believe something in writing rather then something spoken.

Main point trying to make- “Concept of truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression”- each culture has different ways in which they express the truth

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

From 16th century, all knowledge began to be transferred to the printed page. Books imported from Britain- “ Beginning in the 16h century a great epistemological shift had taken place in which knowledge of every kind was transferred to and made manifest through the printed page.

Print was “making a greater impression than actual events”

“ Reading was not regarded as a elitist activity”- everybody is reading- all classes

Printing Press comes about- in US- 1638

Most early printing was in the form of newspapers- lack of literacy due to lack of paper

Printed word had a monopoly of public discourse until late 19th century- printed word was “virtually all that was available, there was no movies to see, radio to hear, photographic displays to look at, and no TV”

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Discusses long speeches and debates and how they were so long- Douglas debates and Ab Lincoln Debates- “ Not only did Lincoln and Douglas write all their speeches in advance, they planned their rebuttals in writing”

18th and 19th century, print encouraged rational, objective mind- was not a coincidence that Age of Reason was coexistent with the growth of print culture.

“ In a culture dominated my print, public discourse tends to be characterized by coherent orderly arrangement of facts and ideas”

18th and 19th century public figures were known by their written words, not by their image.

“ Toward the end of the 19th century, for reasons I am most anxious to explain, the Age of Exposition began to pass, and the early signs of its replacement could be discerned. It was replaced by Age of Show Business”

Chapter 5

Chapter 5

America was disparate, information could travel only as fast as a train could travel, until the mid 19th century- when the telegraph was invented by Samuel Morse.

“ The penny newspaper, emerging slightly before telegraphy,, in the 1830’s, had already begun the process of elevating irrelevance to the status of the news”- Telegraph enabled them to print more national news.

Because of the telegraph, there was a flood of information from far away, that was largely irrelevant. Why do we need to know information that does not necessarily apply to ourselves?

Postman asserts that “Today little of the news we see/hear/read will make us change our daily plans or give us something to talk about, but never really leading to meaningful action.

Telegraph brought information that we did not ask for. Changed the nature of how knowledge was acquired. Telegraph gave us a lot of information, but people never knew about that information.

Photographs appeared at same time- similar to telegraph in that it separated object from context. Photo implies that we accept what we see, rather then question it.

Chapter 6

Chapter 6

The Age of Show Business

“Television does not extend or amplify literate culture. It attacks it.”

Television is taking over our world and people are forgetting about literature and its importance. Television is ruining society because it has become the source of entertainment.

“The technology of television has a bias, as well. It is conceivable to use television as a lamp, a surface for texts, a bookcase, even as a radio. But it has not been so used and will not be so used, at least in America.”

“The total estimate of U.S. television program exports is approximately 100,000 to 200,000 hours.

All these quotes are demonstrating how entertainment has become used for only our amusement and pleasure.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Postman discuses the irrelevance of the news today because of how it is seen primarily to entertain rather then inform.

“ Now this”- phrase that warns audience that what they are about to hear/see is going to be different from what they just saw or heard. “ Newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately 45 seconds)”.

The people in control of the news are primarily concerned with attracting the largest audience possible.

They do this through entertaining them- providing music for their audience, allowing each segment to be as long as forty five seconds, creating a lot of commercials, and giving the audience a newscaster that seems credible.

Information on the news is no longer meant to give the audience insight into the world they live in.

TV is degrading our conception of what constitutes news.

Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Postman’s discusses TV preachers that people see on TV on Sundays.

Trying to prove that religion has to change to become televisable- the church that people watch on TV is much different then the one that people actually attend.

Discusses preachers from television, like Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell whose main goal is to attract viewers by the millions. They do this by creating the perfect televised sermon- with “theatrical and emotional displays”

Seek to create a appealing show for their viewers.

Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Postman’s main point is that politely discussion has taken the format of the commercial. Therefore, it has lost its meaning.

“By combining in compact form music, drama, imagery, humor and celebrity, the TV commercial has mounted the most serious assault on capitalist ideology since "Das Capital" was published.”

Postman asserts that “ The TV commercial has been the chief instrument of modern ways of presenting political ideas in 2 ways:
1. It requires its form to be used in political campaigns
2. Its dominance in public communication in our society means now that people accept them as a normal and plausible form of discourse.”

Postman also says how TV commercials do not provide information about the product they are trying to sell, but rather provide a slogan or symbol that creates for viewers a compelling image of themselves.

Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Postman’s main point- “Television is undermining what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”

Postman believes that television shows such as Sesame Street is creating this idea of school that in reality is not what school is.

Shows like these can be educational and beneficial to the student, but it is also creating a world in which the printed word is slowly vanishing.

Postman believes that by rejecting a television culture and slowly return to the printed word, we can solve this problem that schools today are facing.

Chapter 11

Chapter 11

Main idea : The solution to our culture’s trivialization is the American answer: Our Schools.

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