Amusing Ourselves to Death is a book I believe I've mentioned on this blog before. If not, I've been remiss. I have a very short "must read" list, but this book is on it.
Here are a few quotes to give you a flavor for the book. You can't, of course, understand a book from a few quotes. But, maybe this will encourage you to pick it up and read it.
"Is it really plausible that this book about how TV is turning all public life (education, religion, politics, journalism) into entertainment; how the image is undermining other forms of communication, particularly the written word; and how our bottomless appetite for TV will make content to abundantly available, context be damned, that we will be overwhelmed by 'information glut' until what is truly meaningful is lost and we no longer care what we've lost as long as we're being amused..."Amusing Ourselves to Deathwas written in 1985. Prophetic, though, isn't it?
"...how we are obliged to conduct such conversations will have the strongest possible influence on what ideas we can conveniently express. And what ideas are convenient to express inevitably become the important content of the culture."He goes on to explain that we can't discuss philosophy with smoke signals. "It's form excludes the content." Which causes me to reflect on the "forms" that we have today (forums, email, twitter, Facebook, google plus, etc, etc) and what "content" we are expressing on it. Or attempting to express on it.
"...it is, I believe, a wise and particularly relevant supposition that the media of communication available to a culture are a dominant influence on the formation of a culture's intellectual and social preoccupations."Lest you think that Postman is all doom and gloom and urging everyone to throw out their TVs, he is not. He is calling us to be honest about what the technology of his day, TV, actually does. It entertains.
What does this have to do with today? After all, the TV argument is a little dated. However, there are so many principles that we can apply to today. We also need to be honest about what the technology of our day can do. What forms of media do we use and what are we expecting from it? Do forums really build true community? Will announcing your pregnant on Facebook accomplish the same thing as doing it in person? Do we really know how someone is doing through texting? The book won't answer any of these questions, but hopefully it will encourage you to think through them anyway.
Even if you don't agree with everything he says, this book will be a profitable read.