Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Businessby Neil Postman
Television has conditioned us to tolerate visually entertaining material measured out in spoonfuls of time, to the detriment of rational public discourse and reasoned public affairs. In this eloquent, persuasive book, Neil Postman alerts us to the real and present dangers of this state of affairs, and offers compelling suggestions as to how to withstand the media… See more details below
Television has conditioned us to tolerate visually entertaining material measured out in spoonfuls of time, to the detriment of rational public discourse and reasoned public affairs. In this eloquent, persuasive book, Neil Postman alerts us to the real and present dangers of this state of affairs, and offers compelling suggestions as to how to withstand the media onslaught. Before we hand over politics, education, religion, and journalism to the show business demands of the television age, we must recognize the ways in which the media shape our lives and the ways we can, in turn, shape them to serve out highest goals.
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Table of Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Chapter 1. - The Medium Is the Metaphor
Chapter 2. - Media as Epistemology
Chapter 3. - Typographic America
Chapter 4. - The Typographic Mind
Chapter 5. - The Peek-a-Boo World
Chapter 6. - The Age of Show Business
Chapter 7. - “Now ... This”
Chapter 8. - Shuffle Off to Bethlehem
Chapter 9. - Reach Out and Elect Someone
Chapter 10. - Teaching as an Amusing Activity
Chapter 11. - The Huxleyan Warning
Acclaim for Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death
“As a fervent evangelist of the age of Hollywood, I publicly opposed Neil Postman’s dark picture of our media-saturated future. But time has proved Postman right. He accurately foresaw that the young would inherit a frantically all-consuming media culture of glitz, gossip, and greed.”
“A brillant, powerful and important book. This is an indictment that Postman has laid down and, so far as I can see, an irrefutable one.”
—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World
“He starts where Marshall McLuhan left off, constructing his arguments with the resources of a scholar and the wit of a raconteur.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“This comes along at exactly the right moment.... We must confront the challenge of his prophetic vision.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
For the last third of the twentieth century, Neil Postman was one of America’s foremost social critics and education and communications theorists, and his ideas and accessibility won him an international following. An influential and revered teacher, he was professor for more than forty years at New York University, where he founded the renowned Media Ecology program. Blessed with an unusually far-reaching mind, he authored more than twenty books, producing major works on education (Teaching as a Subversive Activity, The End of Education), childhood (The Disappearance of Childhood), language (Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk), news (How to Watch TV News, with Steve Powers) and technology’s impact on culture (Technopoly). Amusing Ourselves to Death remains his most reverberating and widely read book, translated into more than a dozen languages. He was educated at the State University of New York at Fredonia and Columbia University. He died in October 2003, at the age of seventy-two.
Andrew Postman, Neil’s son, is the author of five books, including the novel Now I Know Everything. For several years he was a monthly columnist for Glamour and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and New York Magazine, among numerous publications.
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First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin Inc. 1985
Published in Penguin Books 1986
This edition with an introduction by Andrew Postman published 2006
Copyright © Neil Postman, 1985
Introduction copyright © Andrew Postman, 2005
All rights reserved
Grateful acknowledgment is made to The New York Times Company for permission to reprint from “Combining TV, Books, Computers” by Edward Fiske, which appeared in the August 7, 1984 issue of The New York Times. Copyright © 1984 by The New York Times Company.
A section of this book was supported by a commission from the Annenberg Scholars Program, Annenberg School of Communications, University of Southern California. Specifically, portions of chapters six and seven formed part of a paper delivered at the Scholars Conference, “Creating Meaning: Literacies of our Time,” February 1984.
eISBN : 978-1-101-04262-5
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Introduction to the Twentieth Anniversary Edition
A book of social commentary published twenty years ago? You’re not busy enough writing e-mails, returning calls, downloading tunes, playing games (online, PlayStation, Game Boy), checking out Web sites, sending text messages, IM’ing, Tivoing, watching what you’ve Tivoed, browsing through magazines and newspapers, reading new books—now you’ve got to stop and read a book that first appeared in the last century, not to mention the last millennium? Come on. Like your outlook on today could seriously be rocked by this plain-spoken provocation about The World of 1985, a world yet to be infiltrated by the Internet, cell phones, PDAs, cable channels by the hundreds, DVDs, call-waiting, caller ID, blogs, flat-screens, HDTV, and iPods? Is it really plausible that this slim volume, with its once-urgent premonitions about the nuanced and deep-seated perils of television, could feel timely today, the Age of Computers? 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 so abundantly available, context be damned, that we’ll 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.... Can such a book possibly have relevance to you and The World of 2006 and beyond?
I think you’ve answered your own question.
Meet the Author
Neil Postman (1931–2003) was chairman of the Department of Communication Arts at New York University and founder of its Media Ecology program. He wrote more than twenty books.
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