Chapter Summary for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, part 2 chapter 7 summary. Even the Mayflower was unique in the way it considered its books amongst its most precious cargo. He notes that he will later explore how television inspires a discourse of "marginal" content (49). 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). 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. This fit in with the decontextualized model of telegraph news because an objective photo gave some sense of reality to news that otherwise had little to do with the listener's life. Title. As previously noted, Postman seems to view the public as victim to whatever media-metaphor exists in its time. Further, the conversation implied by writing has a universal edge. 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). My students love how organized the handouts are and enjoy tracking the themes as a class.”. Chapter Three, Amusing Ourselves to Death In the 19th century, Americans primarily read newspapers and pamphlets that focused on politics. On Reading “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Chapter 6. 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. He loves the idea of Typographic America because that media-metaphor allowed and encouraged everyone to be engaged. 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. 1. Thus, in Amusing Ourselves to Death he laments that American culture has become so intertwined with TV because TV is a medium which encourages vapid, shallow conversation and … It is through arguments like these that Postman most seems like a curmudgeonly reactionary, and often might appear to students that way. Need help with Chapter 6: The Age of Show Business in Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death? Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. 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. Postman’s description of 17th century colonial America is quite nostalgic and idealistic—he renders this period as egalitarian and highly literate. In terms of image, Postman suggests that readers of the 18th and 19th century would have judged their public figures by the strength of their language and propositions. Naturally, this conversation led to a different content than what had come before. He argues that in a world still almost exclusively dominated by the written word, the public was accustomed to literary, complicated oratory modeled on written language. LitCharts Teacher Editions. Chapter Summary for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, part 1 chapter 3 summary. 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. (including. The photograph of the tree needs not acknowledge the cliffside or underground system of roots that ensure its survival. He notes how religious discourse was framed in early America as a series of rational dialogues, so that more emotionally-detached faiths like Deism were "given their say in an open court" (53). In effect, Postman argues that a "peek-a-boo" world had come into being, a world wherein an event pops into consciousness for a moment and then disappears without any pretense at "coherence or sense" (77). This concept is explored more fully in later chapters. A photograph, on the other hand, is concerned only with particulars. A photograph, on the other hand, is an object in itself, and requires no context. 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). Postman suggests that two ideas intersected in the middle of the 19th century to lay the foundation for the Age of Show Business. However, what was new in the mid-19th century is that the picture became the primary basis for understanding truth. He then announces his purpose to further explore how print in typographic America dictated the mode of discourse. Because the telegraph exists only to transmit information, and not to analyze it, it announces the information as disposable. He asks what action we plan to take regarding trouble in the Middle East, or crime rates. resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel. Because they could read and write, they could both influence and be influenced by important social events. Further, Postman believes that the telegraph made information "essentially incoherent" (69). As a subsequent proposition, Postman suggests that the existence of a meaning presupposes that the author is capable of communicating that meaning and that the reader is capable of understanding it. Intellectual, popular, working-class, aristocratic—all spheres of culture revolved around print media in their own way. Asked by Kristin D #601493 Summary Foreword. To begin his exploration of how print as a media-metaphor influenced the discourse of its time, Postman considers the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates, in which Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas publicly debated one another when competing for the Illinois state senate seat. Rating: 10/10. Find a summary of this and each chapter of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business! One is inspired to either make or not make changes, but nevertheless, that text has inspired something of relevance. Amusing Ourselves to Death Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis . As a result, American readers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were focused primarily on these political documents rather than on books. It is entertaining, but neither allows nor permits us to do anything about the information it provides. To mention nature is to invoke many images and contextualized associations in our minds. 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. -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 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. Amusing Ourselves to Death study guide contains a biography of Neil Postman, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. And most interestingly of all, the crossword puzzle suggests that news had found a new purpose: not to elucidate or aid, but to amuse. Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. Amusing Ourselves to Death Summary Chapter 5: Decontextualizing the World . Firstly, language is a medium through which one thing is meant to evoke something else. Chapter Three, Amusing Ourselves to Death In the 19th century, Americans primarily read newspapers and pamphlets that focused on politics. 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. 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. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a book about epistemology – and how it is actively being changed by new forms of media.Neil Postman makes a powerful argument about the importance of the written word, about how by its nature, it is more conducive to a true understanding of the world, whereas other forms of media, that rely on pictures, are a poor substitute. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of. The Question and Answer section for Amusing Ourselves to Death is a great He does mean to suggest that religious fervor lacked a passionate component, but only that religious messages were delivered rationally. 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. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. As America battled to conquer the frontier, it used electricity to ultimately create the telegraph, which allowed information to travel faster than a human being could. Postman gives several examples of how the information of the "news of the day" does not have the power to inspire action in us. Asked by Kristin D #601493 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. 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. 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. 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). Instant downloads of all 1391 LitChart PDFs (including Amusing Ourselves to Death). He contrasts this with typographic culture, in which news and arguments had a direct correlation to the context in which they were spoken, whether that was regional or topical. Further, a photograph presents itself as "objective," as "fact" (72-73). 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. As noted before, Postman tends to ignore any discussion of power structures that might enforce these strictures for their own gain. Telegraphy and photography stripped information from its context. It lacks any impulse to categorize, to require its audience to connect it to anything other than itself. Lectures and debates didn’t sound like idle conversation—they sounded like writing. As Richard Hofstader reminds us, America was founded by intellectuals, a rare occurrence in the history of modern nations” (41). Much Internet humor derives from decontextualizing artists or politicians from their primary context, and the prevalence of photo manipulation allows even an amateur photographer to suggest extreme ideas that have the weight of objectivity without any pretense towards accuracy. 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. The democracy of written word seemed to have opened up barriers of classist expectation. Postman says it is important to continue to investigate how the printing press shaped colonial American epistemology, in order to address the problem of the decline (according to Postman) of rational conversation in 20th century America. It is here that Postman begins to discuss the idea of context, which will prove important to his later discussions. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides. Cedars, S.R.. McKeever, Christine ed. 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. 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). The way people thought and spoke would be influenced by this new media-metaphor. 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. This summary is readily available in the study guide for this unit and has all the information you need to formulate... Chapter Three, Amusing Ourselves to Death. One of these ideas was new, and the other was "as old as the cave paintings of Altamira" (64). The implied question here is: could Charles Dickens have existed in the 20th century the way he did in the 19th? Mass media -- Influence. is relevant" (60). The exposition become secondary, a caption to the photo. 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 the audience was not respectful and somber, but instead enlivened and prone to outbursts of support or denigration towards either Lincoln or Douglas. 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. Even the more controversial arguments over Protestant dogma took place through literary arguments in pamphlets, and the great Jonathan Edwards, who could purportedly move any audience to tears with his fiery delivery, spoke in a way that expected his audiences to follow his sculpted arguments. He or she could now feel that this headline was connected to his or her life because the illusion revealed that the news did in fact occur in real life. Chapter Summary for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, part 2 chapter 6 summary. ... Summary Notes. For instance, one cannot photograph nature; one can only photograph a tree, or a particular perspective of a cliffside. 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. 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. The importance of literacy amongst these early settlers was fostered both through religious expectation and actual laws of education. In the 19th century, Americans primarily read newspapers and pamphlets that focused on politics. "My students can't get enough of your charts and their results have gone through the roof." Postman contrasts this with current Presidents, whom he assumes we see first as an image, and secondarily as the speaker of certain words. Amusing Ourselves to Death is one of the classics in the fields of cultural criticism and 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. We were not only better readers and writers—we were better thinkers. He cites figures that reveal the uniquely high rates of literacy in the early colonial period, and admires the fact that these highly religious people did not confine their reading interests to the Bible, but in fact also imported a great myriad of books of different subjects from England. Amusing ourselves to death. Throughout history, different cities have been the representations of American culture. We must think to read and understand. A headline provided its own context, and has no purpose to explain why it matters. They were inspired to be part of the cultural conversation that reading allowed. Postman announces an exploration of this idea as the purpose for the remainder of his book. Postman emphasizes that we must first understand the past if we are to understand the present. He suggests that our culture's language became a "language of headlines – sensational, fragmented, impersonal" (70). He begins to explain this concept by first indicating that photography is not quite a "language," despite the common tendency to discuss it as such (72). Advertising in its early forms, Postman argues, essentially assembled "a context in which the question, Is this true or false? It is here that Postman provides the very old idea that brought on the Age of Show Business – the prominence of pictures, delivered through photographs. 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. 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. The new idea was that distance no longer impeded the duration of communication. 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. 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. Postman continues this strategy, suggesting that as our tastes have changed, so have our heroes. Postman argues that our very speech patterns were different when we were a print culture. Information became a commodity valuable for being a novelty rather than for being important towards informing the public. The implicit suggestion here is that our love of football and advertising has replaced our love of reason, language, and learning. To Postman, that city is now Las Vegas. This type of news had always existed in some form, but it now became the primary form of news. 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. Postman also illustrates how even commerce reflected the rational shape of a print-based discourse. Why do you think that TV showbiz took over typography as the dominant medium? Because the laws were based on immutable recorded precedents, a lawyer was expected to be rational, learned, and literary, while he in turn expected his audience (whether juries or the public) to also have a grasp of legal thought and ideas. 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. Perhaps it is a fear that he would seem like a revolutionary rather than a media theorist, or perhaps he fears that such conspiracy theory is too controversial to keep a lay reader's attention. From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. Though Americans were at first only fervent readers with little inclination towards creating their own work, typographic America made a great step forward with a series of newspapers and pamphlets of explicitly political purpose. 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. Check out our revolutionary side-by-side summary and analysis. 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. 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). Consider the discussion of advertising. A word evokes a particular idea, which is part of a larger context that leads us into abstraction. Summary. 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. It has so thoroughly defined what we think of as truth that we no longer question the way in which it works. The speed of transmittal allows little time for reflection, and only offers an opportunity to replace one piece of information with whatever happens next. Thirdly, language only functions through context – one proposition needs to be both preceded and followed in order to make any sense. LitCharts Teacher Editions. Sep 8, ... Marx did not pursue the thought but Postman, as the chapter concludes, sets the task as … Though a common man with minimal education, the public never doubted that "such powers of written expression could originate" from him (35). Spoken sentences were longer, more complex, and more rigorously logical—and listeners, whose minds were used to this kind of print-based language, were able to digest and follow this kind of spoken print. Though held at extravaganzas like county fairs, audiences would gladly follow the entirety of the debates themselves. 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). 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). 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