As a result, American readers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were focused primarily on these political documents rather than on books. Amusing Ourselves to Death Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis . (including. 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 is not a long book — 163 pages of text. Here’s his line of argument in 3 lessons: The 19th century was the age of reading. Postman suggests that two ideas intersected in the middle of the 19th century to lay the foundation for the Age of Show Business. Though a common man with minimal education, the public never doubted that "such powers of written expression could originate" from him (35). Because written thoughts can never change, they imply a deliberation on the writer's part, and also an honesty of expression. Lectures and debates didn’t sound like idle conversation—they sounded like writing. Find a summary of this and each chapter of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business! The Medium is the Metaphor. 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 concept is explored more fully in later chapters. Further, the conversation implied by writing has a universal edge. A photograph, on the other hand, is concerned only with particulars. Sep 8, ... Marx did not pursue the thought but Postman, as the chapter concludes, sets the task as … Thanks for exploring this SuperSummary Plot Summary of “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman. 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 is one of the classics in the fields of cultural criticism and 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. Therefore, every reader has the opportunity (or compulsion) to engage in dialogue with it. 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). As Richard Hofstader reminds us, America was founded by intellectuals, a rare occurrence in the history of modern nations” (41). Amusing Ourselves to Death Summary Chapter 5: Decontextualizing the World . 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). 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. 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. Firstly, language is a medium through which one thing is meant to evoke something else. Postman’s description of 17th century colonial America is quite nostalgic and idealistic—he renders this period as egalitarian and highly literate. 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. Asked by Kristin D #601493 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. He next wishes to explain how the Age of Exposition was slowly replaced by the Age of Show Business. 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. 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). Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Their respective speeches were always at least one hour long, so that the entire debate spanned up to seven hours or more. 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. Bibliography: p. Includes index. Naturally, this conversation led to a different content than what had come before. Because the telegraph exists only to transmit information, and not to analyze it, it announces the information as disposable. 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. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides. These stories had little to offer to a region far removed from where they occurred, but the lack of context was no longer an issue for consideration. Information became a commodity valuable for being a novelty rather than for being important towards informing the public. In the 19th century, Americans primarily read newspapers and pamphlets that focused on politics. A word evokes a particular idea, which is part of a larger context that leads us into abstraction. Instant downloads of all 1392 LitChart PDFs Need help with Chapter 6: The Age of Show Business in Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death? Find a summary of this and each chapter of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business! Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. Jack Lule. Thirdly, language only functions through context – one proposition needs to be both preceded and followed in order to make any sense. 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. Chapter Summary for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, part 1 chapter 4 summary. New forms of media don’t merely affect what kinds of people become popular heroes, but also how individuals think and process. Asked by Kristin D #601493 Moreover, this public was accustomed to seeking oratory in other venues outside debates, meaning these were not unique events. His first proposition is that print and oratory must necessarily have "a content" - a subject around which it is centered (49). 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. He believes that the written word (and oratory based on it) is essentially detached from its audience. 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. Title. Jack Lule. "My students can't get enough of your charts and their results have gone through the roof." 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 contrasts this with current Presidents, whom he assumes we see first as an image, and secondarily as the speaker of certain words. 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. 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. 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. One of these ideas was new, and the other was "as old as the cave paintings of Altamira" (64). “No literary aristocracy emerged in Colonial America,” says Postman. The photograph of the tree needs not acknowledge the cliffside or underground system of roots that ensure its survival. 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). It lacks any impulse to categorize, to require its audience to connect it to anything other than itself. Even the Mayflower was unique in the way it considered its books amongst its most precious cargo. Chapter Summary for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, part 2 chapter 6 summary. resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel. Advertising in its early forms, Postman argues, essentially assembled "a context in which the question, Is this true or false? 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. For instance, one cannot photograph nature; one can only photograph a tree, or a particular perspective of a cliffside. Nevertheless, the prevalence of the printing press increased unopposed, allowing ideas to cross regional boundaries, evidence of which Postman provides as the Federalist Papers. And most interestingly of all, the crossword puzzle suggests that news had found a new purpose: not to elucidate or aid, but to amuse. 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. Further, a photograph presents itself as "objective," as "fact" (72-73). 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. Read the Study Guide for Amusing Ourselves to Death…, View Wikipedia Entries for Amusing Ourselves to Death…. I have dedicated 11 different posts to its important… Asked by Kristin D #601493 Chapter Three, Amusing Ourselves to Death In the 19th century, Americans primarily read newspapers and pamphlets that focused on politics. Instant downloads of all 1391 LitChart PDFs (including Amusing Ourselves to Death). 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). Because a text is generally spoken to nobody in particular (but rather to an unnamed audience), it is therefore directed towards everyone. 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. The book highlights two important mediums—writing and television—but the ideas are applicable to any communication medium be it telegraphy, photography, radio, the internet, or social media. He then announces his purpose to further explore how print in typographic America dictated the mode of discourse. On Reading “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Chapter 3. 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. Is this a general question or attributed to the book title Amusing Ourselves to Death? 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. He asks what action we plan to take regarding trouble in the Middle East, or crime rates. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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). 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. All of these elements are those which make Postman so value reading and writing – they force one to grapple with the world, rather than blowing off what is uninteresting or not immediately accessible. The exposition become secondary, a caption to the photo. From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. We were not only better readers and writers—we were better thinkers. 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. 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 here that Postman begins to discuss the idea of context, which will prove important to his later discussions. A headline provided its own context, and has no purpose to explain why it matters. Chapter Summary for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, part 2 chapter 7 summary. 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. Further, Postman believes that the telegraph made information "essentially incoherent" (69). Speeches were expected to bear signs of deliberation and the emotional distance of the written word. 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. He does mean to suggest that religious fervor lacked a passionate component, but only that religious messages were delivered rationally. Telegraphy and photography stripped information from its context. He loves the idea of Typographic America because that media-metaphor allowed and encouraged everyone to be engaged. 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. This type of news had always existed in some form, but it now became the primary form of news. ... Summary Notes. Without restating his argument, it is useful to collect all of his thoughts about what a print and oratory based culture offers. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of. 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. Amusing Ourselves to Death In the introduction to his book Postman said that reality was reflected more by Aldous Huxley's Brave New World where the public was oppressed by pleasure than Orwell's 1984 where they were oppressed by pain. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. The importance of literacy amongst these early settlers was fostered both through religious expectation and actual laws of education. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. It has so thoroughly defined what we think of as truth that we no longer question the way in which it works. Cedars, S.R.. McKeever, Christine ed. 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). Postman continues this strategy, suggesting that as our tastes have changed, so have our heroes. Majhok Chaw University of Maryland University College Amusing Ourselves To Death Summary Essay. 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. It is, in a word, rational. Postman notes that even lectures—spoken words—took on the quality of print. GradeSaver, 24 March 2013 Web. Postman announces an exploration of this idea as the purpose for the remainder of his book. 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. A photograph, on the other hand, is an object in itself, and requires no context. 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. He notes that he will later explore how television inspires a discourse of "marginal" content (49). Postman gives several examples of how the information of the "news of the day" does not have the power to inspire action in us. Our, LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in, The History of Public Discourse and Media, Progress, Prediction, and the Unforeseen Future, Postman discusses the growth of printed book distribution in the 17th century, and specifically its importance to early American colonial culture. 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). 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. 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. We do not respond to words themselves, but in fact look past those words to discern meaning. Chapter Summary for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, part 1 chapter 3 summary. 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). 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