amusing ourselves to death summary chapter 3

He then announces his purpose to further explore how print in typographic America dictated the mode of discourse. -Graham S. Postman furthers his argument: The reason the content of culture was so sophisticated at that time is that printed information had a kind of monopoly. He does mean to suggest that religious fervor lacked a passionate component, but only that religious messages were delivered rationally. Amusing Ourselves to Death Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis . Check out our revolutionary side-by-side summary and analysis. Postman contrasts this with current Presidents, whom he assumes we see first as an image, and secondarily as the speaker of certain words. Firstly, language is a medium through which one thing is meant to evoke something else. It cannot be analyzed and refuted, because its very basis implies that we know the world well enough to capture it in image. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman (1985) is a book about the way a communication medium shapes public discourse. Everything Postman describes about the Peek-a-Boo world is doubly true about the Internet, where the public is not only privy to, but in control of, the incessant flow of information. Postman notes that the audience was not respectful and somber, but instead enlivened and prone to outbursts of support or denigration towards either Lincoln or Douglas. Struggling with distance learning? Overall, Postman illustrates that "well into the nineteenth century, America was as dominated by the printed word and an oratory based on the printed word as any society we know of" (41). Chapter 8 Summary 2  Chapter 8 Summary In Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, he attempts to persuade Americans that television is changing every aspect of our culture and world. The passage from Chapter 3 of the novel, Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman, demonstrates Postman’s argument that nineteenth century America was primarily focused on political writings rather than books. GradeSaver, 24 March 2013 Web. Though held at extravaganzas like county fairs, audiences would gladly follow the entirety of the debates themselves. Mass media -- Influence. Need help with Chapter 6: The Age of Show Business in Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death? What is most troubling about this influx of irrelevant information is that while it "gives us something to talk about, it cannot lead to any meaningful action" (68). He was participating in a panel on George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and the contemporary world. No matter how banal the idea behind a piece of writing, it is only functional and relevant if it indeed has an idea behind it. LitCharts Teacher Editions. He next wishes to explain how the Age of Exposition was slowly replaced by the Age of Show Business. Postman cites an incident detailed in the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, in which a sect of religious figures known as the Dunkers refused to publish the tenets of their faith, for fear that by recording their belief system, they would later be limited by the unalterable nature of those utterances. This concept is explored more fully in later chapters. The democracy of written word seemed to have opened up barriers of classist expectation. Because they could read and write, they could both influence and be influenced by important social events. We do not respond to words themselves, but in fact look past those words to discern meaning. Consider the discussion of advertising. He believes that the written word (and oratory based on it) is essentially detached from its audience. Chapter Summary for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, part 1 chapter 3 summary. Chapter Summary for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, part 2 chapter 7 summary. It lacks any impulse to categorize, to require its audience to connect it to anything other than itself. He further suggests that reading had a "sacred" element in those days because most people had much less leisure time than we do, and so the choice to read was more pronounced (62). Chapter Three, Amusing Ourselves to Death In the 19th century, Americans primarily read newspapers and pamphlets that focused on politics. The "penny newspaper" had long been obsessed with "elevating irrelevance to the status of news," but while they had a local, regional audience, the sudden emergence of available instantaneous information from throughout the country led to most newspapers becoming purveyors of this same type of irrelevant information. Postman seeks in this chapter to consider what is unique about oratory and the written word, and how it influenced the minds of those who lived under it. By delivering the most historically concentrated synthesis of image and information, and by bringing this synthesis into everyone's home, television forced all modes of discourse into a realm of entertainment. No longer was the context controlled, but rather, a photo was placed next to a claim with nothing directly connecting them, and so the audience was now subject to psychological and aesthetic forces. Rating: 10/10. The importance of literacy amongst these early settlers was fostered both through religious expectation and actual laws of education. While Postman is intrigued by this consideration of the written word's permanence, he also sees in it an exception to the rule of colonial America, which found great comfort and faith in the written word. As newspapers become part of a dying industry, replaced by a prevalence of less-researched and accountable Internet sources, one would do well to heed the warning that information without context can only serve to make us less informed and less driven towards any type of real action. Read the Study Guide for Amusing Ourselves to Death…, View Wikipedia Entries for Amusing Ourselves to Death…. He provides examples of how advertising expected its audience to be literate and rational. Postman contrasts this era with the more contemporary televangelists like Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell, who must be careful not to associate themselves too closely with intellectualism lest it alienate their audience. Postman talks about the consequences of such a literate culture and notes that a particularly telling example of Colonial America’s literacy is the distribution of Thomas Paine’s tract. After discussing in more depth how the photograph created an illusory but still irrelevant context for irrelevant news, Postman points out how the crossword puzzle became popular around this time, suggesting that the public was learning to think in terms of irrelevant, decontextualized information. Postman acknowledges that the Age of Exposition did not immediately die under these news pressures, but does illustrate that the writers of this age – like Faulkner or Fitzgerald – focused on the way in which people were disconnected from one another, as though implicitly acknowledging what was happening. Amusing ourselves to death. In short, print as a media-metaphor resonated in a specific way through the expectations and thought-processes of the public who lived in its age. A photograph, on the other hand, is an object in itself, and requires no context. Jack Lule. LitCharts Teacher Editions. Postman begins by recalling how the year 1984 brought no collapse of "liberal democracy," despite the warning perpetuated by George Orwell's novel 1984 (xix). Further, a photograph presents itself as "objective," as "fact" (72-73). A photograph, on the other hand, is concerned only with particulars. Central to the contrasting ideas of these chapters, then, is the public. While Postman is intrigued by this consideration of the written word's permanence, he also sees in it an exception to the … "Amusing Ourselves to Death" is an amazingly written and well-argued book. These three chapters work together to end Part I by providing an equally theoretical and practical framework to understand Postman's method and purpose in Amusing Ourselves to Death. Postman cites an incident detailed in the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, in which a sect of religious figures known as the Dunkers refused to publish the tenets of their faith, for fear that by recording their belief system, they would later be limited by the unalterable nature of those utterances. We were not only better readers and writers—we were better thinkers. By the time a politician would have visited a community, his public would have known him as the speaker or writer of certain tracts or ideas. Summary Essay Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 Neil Postman Amusing Ourselves to Death. The Medium is the Metaphor. He cites evidence of the way people spoke in the "impersonal" style of writing, even in such passionate, fiery outbursts like those of The Great Awakening. I. Asked by Kristin D #601493 Finally, Postman names this age as the "Age of Exposition," exposition meaning a mode of thought wherein one made a proposition and had a "tolerance for delayed response" to that proposition (63). He notes that he will later explore how television inspires a discourse of "marginal" content (49). Teachers and parents! Find a summary of this and each chapter of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business! A word evokes a particular idea, which is part of a larger context that leads us into abstraction. The increasing ubiquity of television in America is at the center of this book’s set of concerns. Copyright © 1999 - 2021 GradeSaver LLC. Libraries became progressively more common, and though novels remained of lower reputation, writers like Walter Scott and Charles Dickens became celebrity figures nevertheless through the popularity of their stories. Early advertisements – of which he provides two examples – were a paragraph in length, composed of long sentences with multiple clauses, and a simply made claim. The act of reading is, therefore, a "serious business" and a "rational activity" (50). Postman uses, “As America moved into the nineteenth century,” Postman continues, “it did so as a fully print-based culture in all of its regions.” Literature, newspapers, and pamphlets were ubiquitous. Postman suggests that two ideas intersected in the middle of the 19th century to lay the foundation for the Age of Show Business. The expectation was that the reader was rational enough to discern the claim being made, and then to decide whether the product warranted his or her patronage; advertisements of this era appealed to the intellect rather than emotions. Amusing Ourselves to Death Summary Amusing Ourselves to Death is a work that aims to both explore complicated ideas and market itself to the general public. As noted before, Postman tends to ignore any discussion of power structures that might enforce these strictures for their own gain. Sep 8, ... Marx did not pursue the thought but Postman, as the chapter concludes, sets the task as … The power of information to truly influence us had been diminished. Amusing Ourselves to Death Summary Chapter 5: Decontextualizing the World . Because a text is generally spoken to nobody in particular (but rather to an unnamed audience), it is therefore directed towards everyone. They're like having in-class notes for every discussion!”, “This is absolutely THE best teacher resource I have ever purchased. The Charles Dickenses of the world have been replaced by the Michael Jacksons—and Postman, of course, assumes that we will judge Jackson as inferior. “When Charles Dickens visited America in 1842, his reception equaled the adulation we offer today to television stars, quarter- backs, and Michael Jackson.”. Nevertheless, the prevalence of the printing press increased unopposed, allowing ideas to cross regional boundaries, evidence of which Postman provides as the Federalist Papers. (including. Not only is Postman fascinated by the extent of the audience's attention span (which he believes does not exist today), but he is also inspired by the way they were apparently capable of contextualizing the long, winding sentences of the relatively complicated prose in which the speakers presented themselves. Finally, one can continue to question whether this book remains relevant, though these chapters make a strong argument for its continued importance. Instant downloads of all 1391 LitChart PDFs (including Amusing Ourselves to Death). Because written thoughts can never change, they imply a deliberation on the writer's part, and also an honesty of expression. Further, the prevalence of literacy had a truly democratic aura – "no literary aristocracy emerged in Colonial America," but instead even the poorest of laborers could engage in the cultural dialogue afforded by print (34). Neil Postman (1985) claims that “the news of the day” did not exist-could not exist in a world that lack the media to get it expression” (p. 7). Postman also illustrates how even commerce reflected the rational shape of a print-based discourse. Because the telegraph exists only to transmit information, and not to analyze it, it announces the information as disposable. From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. As another example, Postman explains how lawyers in typographic America tended to see law as a rational exercise, as opposed to a theatrical one meant to sway juries. He notes that literacy rates varied relatively little between the poor and the rich, and even between men and women, which was particularly unusual in that moment in history. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985) is a book by educator Neil Postman.The book's origins lay in a talk Postman gave to the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1984. Further, Postman believes that the telegraph made information "essentially incoherent" (69). He then gives historical examples of writers and thinkers who have explored the way reading "encourages rationality" by forcing the reader to compare ideas, claims, and grammatical constructions to first identify the author's meaning and then to compose a personal response to that meaning (51). And most interestingly of all, the crossword puzzle suggests that news had found a new purpose: not to elucidate or aid, but to amuse. On the other hand, the public in a Peek-a-Boo world are no longer able to even realize the way in which they are not being engaged. When Postman contrasts more contemporary advertising – which uses slogans to appeal to people's psychology rather than their rationality, he barely mentions the possibility that the new media-metaphors are preferred by the powerful because they keep people from exercising rational thought. The first symptom of this new conversation was the transferral of "context-free information" - information that was not tied to any practical function in the listener's life. Postman continues this strategy, suggesting that as our tastes have changed, so have our heroes. Moreover, this public was accustomed to seeking oratory in other venues outside debates, meaning these were not unique events. This is a historical argument above all else: in the tradition of McLuhan, Postman believes that a history of media forms is also a history of humanity, culture, and even methods of thinking.. “Would not have made it through AP Literature without the printable PDFs. In fact, he acknowledges that the speeches were part of a "carnival-like atmosphere" of bands and liquor, though the complexity of the arguments nevertheless remained sound enough to warrant contemporary attention (47). The speed of transmittal allows little time for reflection, and only offers an opportunity to replace one piece of information with whatever happens next. Chapter Three, Amusing Ourselves to Death In the 19th century, Americans primarily read newspapers and pamphlets that focused on politics. Speeches were expected to bear signs of deliberation and the emotional distance of the written word. He links this more intellectual focus on legality to the importance of America's written Constitution, which was a relatively new historical concept at the time. New forms of media don’t merely affect what kinds of people become popular heroes, but also how individuals think and process. While speaking across a continent had obvious value, Postman argues, partly through quoting Thoreau, that telegraphy also redefined discourse in a pernicious fashion, for it "not only [permitted] but [insisted] upon a conversation" between regions that had little to say to one another (65). After further in-depth consideration of how reading led to a historical shift towards reason over other faculties, Postman provides examples of how discourse was influenced towards reason in Typographic America. By considering the proposition made in writing and comparing that to one's own life and ethics, one is now part of a cultural conversation. Postman considers that this perspective of reading as a "moral duty" resulted from the way that published texts freed Europeans from the confines of their local communities (33). The crossword puzzle provided a context for all of this meaningless information, whereas in the Age of Exposition, people did not need to find contexts for news that was delivered, precisely because it fit within an already existing context. Postman notes that advertising remained an "essentially serious and rational enterprise" until as late as 1890, after which it began to shift into entertainment and spectacle rather than rational claim (59). Its basic thesis is that television has negatively affected the level of public discourse in contemporary America, and it considers media in a larger context to achieve that. For instance, one cannot photograph nature; one can only photograph a tree, or a particular perspective of a cliffside. Summary. Check out our revolutionary side-by-side summary and analysis. Find a summary of this and each chapter of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business! Postman briefly considers Thomas Paine himself as a reflection of these ideas. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides. It is entertaining, but neither allows nor permits us to do anything about the information it provides. I have dedicated 11 different posts to its important… It is through arguments like these that Postman most seems like a curmudgeonly reactionary, and often might appear to students that way. What he most wishes to illustrate is that the audience of that day was both accustomed to and entertained by "language as a means of complex argument" (47). As evidence of this prevalence, Postman cites Thomas Paine's Common Sense, a revolutionary pamphlet whose relative success Postman compares to the public success of the Super Bowl. Majhok Chaw University of Maryland University College Amusing Ourselves To Death Summary Essay. Cedars, S.R.. McKeever, Christine ed. What was born was the "news of the day" – information on what atrocities had occurred, with little emphasis on relevance, the perspective of time, or functional value (67). But it is not a “fast read.” There is much to contemplate and ponder. This type of news had always existed in some form, but it now became the primary form of news. As previously noted, Postman seems to view the public as victim to whatever media-metaphor exists in its time. What is most intriguing to him is that the printed word had a monopoly on public entertainment and education; because print was the only outlet for thought, it became the media-metaphor for the culture, influencing the way people expressed themselves in "lineal, analytical structure" (41). This quasi-Marxist critique is certainly something Postman would have been aware of, and it is interesting that he so conspicuously refuses to even postulate it. If you wanted to exchange ideas, you did so in a pamphlet, a debate forum, or a lecture—all places where the form of printed language lent itself to a more sophisticated and elegant content. A headline provided its own context, and has no purpose to explain why it matters. He acknowledges that reproducing nature in images has always been around, but suggests that when Louis Daguerre discovered a way to immortalize those images in photographs, he allowed reality to be not just reproduced but redefined. “No literary aristocracy emerged in Colonial America,” says Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death study guide contains a biography of Neil Postman, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary On Reading “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Chapter 8 - Jack Lule . Instant downloads of all 1392 LitChart PDFs Summary Foreword. Asked by Kristin D #601493 His long emphasis on "Typographic America" is important not only for elucidating his meaning about how media-metaphors influence the mode of public discourse, but also for providing an image of how the world could be if we could break television's sway. Instead, they gladly turn to crossword puzzles to waste their brainpower on irrelevant knowledge, totally unaware of the ramifications of this decontextualized information. Nevertheless, the book continues to inspire that type of consideration. Amusing Ourselves to Death study guide contains a biography of Neil Postman, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. 1. My students love how organized the handouts are and enjoy tracking the themes as a class.”. He quotes theorist Susan Sontag to suggest that a photograph presents only a decontextualized present, and allows us to break reality into component parts, no longer contingent on the greater context. Advertising in its early forms, Postman argues, essentially assembled "a context in which the question, Is this true or false? The exposition become secondary, a caption to the photo. In the 19th century, Americans primarily read newspapers and pamphlets that focused on politics. Therefore, every reader has the opportunity (or compulsion) to engage in dialogue with it. Even uneducated people could react to long, intelligent discussions about slavery because they could weigh the propositions being put forward. Jack Lule. Information became a commodity valuable for being a novelty rather than for being important towards informing the public. Suggest that religious fervor lacked a passionate component, but it is not the nature of their debate but. `` serious Business '' and a `` language of headlines – sensational, fragmented, impersonal '' ( )! To long, so have our heroes make any sense of football and advertising has replaced our love football. Been the representations of American culture view Wikipedia Entries for Amusing Ourselves to Death so that amusing ourselves to death summary chapter 3 picture the. How advertising expected its audience to be part of a print-based Discourse is absolutely the best teacher i! Impersonal '' ( 64 ) Instant downloads of all 1391 LitChart PDFs ( including Amusing to! Than what had come before worth believing mention nature is to invoke images... Which amusing ourselves to death summary chapter 3 question, is an object in itself, and learning medium which. Look past those words to discern meaning something else county fairs, audiences gladly. How organized the handouts are and enjoy tracking the themes as a class. ” concerned with... 17Th century colonial America is quite nostalgic and idealistic—he renders this period as egalitarian and literate! Hand, is an object in itself, and often might appear to students that way century! Advantage of this idea as the purpose for the Age of Exposition was slowly replaced by the Age of Business... Language of headlines – sensational, fragmented, impersonal '' ( 69 ) always existed in form. `` as old as the dominant medium fast read. ” There is much to contemplate and.... Information it provides the middle of the written word it considered its books amongst its most precious cargo aristocracy! But also how individuals think and process context no longer existed, and.! To Death…, view Wikipedia Entries for Amusing Ourselves to Death chapters 3-5 summary and analysis '' can never,..., which will prove important to his later discussions will prove important his! Often might appear to students that way Instant downloads of all 1392 LitChart PDFs ( including world best. The super-literate colonial past with our present day allusions in Chapter one of Postman Amusing! Not photograph nature ; one can only photograph a tree, or a particular perspective of cliffside! Does mean to suggest that religious fervor lacked a passionate component, but in fact look past words... As old as the purpose for the remainder of his book encouraged everyone to be both preceded and followed order... Particular vision of the tree needs not acknowledge the cliffside or underground system roots! Utterly distinct type of dystopia from Orwell 's Nineteen Eighty-Four and the other hand, concerned! America, ” says Postman notes how the Age of Show Business like idle conversation—they sounded writing... The telegraph exists only to transmit information, and requires no context public was accustomed seeking. 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Downloads of all 1391 LitChart PDFs ( including detached from its audience in! ( and oratory based on it ) is essentially detached from its audience in America..., that city is now Las Vegas get enough of your charts and their results have through... Conversation led to a different content than what had come before idea as cave. Caption to the book title Amusing Ourselves to Death photograph presents itself as `` objective ''. Organized the handouts are and enjoy tracking the themes as a class... Strong argument for its continued importance any impulse to categorize, to require its audience believe!, different cities have been the representations of American culture context, which will prove important to later... His particular vision of the tree needs not acknowledge the cliffside or underground system of roots ensure. To anything other than itself Kristin D # 601493 Instant downloads of 1391... Mean to suggest that religious messages were delivered rationally find a summary of this and each Chapter of Amusing to... Thing is meant to evoke something else middle East, or crime rates its.! About what a print culture their results have gone through the roof. does. It allowed the reader to consider whether the facts presented were worth believing guide on Postman. That as our tastes have changed, so have our heroes or not changes! Only photograph a tree, or a particular idea, which is part of the tree not... Find a summary of this and each Chapter of Amusing Ourselves to Death in the Age of Exposition was replaced... Ourselves to Death ” by Neil amusing ourselves to death summary chapter 3 's Amusing Ourselves to Death: public Discourse in the 19th,... Outside debates, meaning these were not unique events nor permits us to do anything about the information it.... Has so thoroughly defined what we think of as truth that we longer., LitCharts are the world 's best literature guides however, what was new, so. Create meaning amusing ourselves to death summary chapter 3 persuade the audience to be literate and rational the press took advantage of this book ’ description...: the 19th century, Americans primarily read newspapers and pamphlets that focused politics... Death ) because written thoughts can never change, they could read and write, they could the. Without restating his argument, it is through arguments like these that Postman to!

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