Co-Dependent of Technology
Technology has had good qualities that have helped the world to develop into something great over the years, however, there are also bad qualities that affect our everyday lives that are making things more difficult. Neil Postman talks about the disadvantages of technology, such as the media, television, and education, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman points out how television has changed the structure of contemporary discourse that these new ways of learning are inferior, but television isn’t the only technology to change this. There are other factors that have contributed, and there are advantages and disadvantages of technology that Postman hasn’t considered. Other writers who agree with Postman, for example, would be Mark Bauerlein with his book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans. Other writers who disagree with Postman say that there are some great advantages to the use of technology, such as Sue Jansen The electronic Bribe: Power & Knowledge in the Video Age. With each of these authors, they use both Francis Bacon’s Idols and Aristotle’s Rhetorical Appeals to create the flow of their speeches and writings. Technology can lead us to great resources and to another level of understanding the world and these writers help to explain the pros and cons.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman is about how television has negatively affected the level of public discourse in contemporary America, and it considers media in a larger context to achieve this. Postman talks about how social media has caused our grasp of knowledge to shrink. When talking about television, Postman discusses the negative side effects it has on not only adults and teenagers, but on the minds of children. For example, he goes on to discuss Sesame Street. Eugene Rubin did an interview on Neil Postman for an article called Stirring Up Trouble About Technology, Language, and Education, Rubin asks Postman why he thought that Sesame Street is bad when so many parents and educators think that it is wonderful. Postman replies, “My complaint about Sesame Street is that it makes children love television, not school. It is a terrific television show and really uses all the resources of a visual image-based medium.” (Aurora and Rubin, 1989). Postman feels that parents use television to do their job of parenting, of interacting with their children, teaching them how to read, to speak, and so on. Postman continues to talk about how Americans are not paying attention to the psychological and social effects that technology has on our culture. Through Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals, Postman uses all of the appeals; ethos, pathos and logos. He shows credibility, emotions, and logic throughout the text, discussing The Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. Each of these great novels shows rhetorical appeals to consume their readers.
Francis Bacon’s Idols set out to explain what others use for arguments to persuade their readers as Postman does in his book. Postman uses the idols of Tribe, Theatre, and Marketplace. The one he doesn’t use, as much throughout the book is Cave. The Idol, the Tribe, means family, community, alliance and allegiance. Postman uses this example to demonstrate Tribe: “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities, and commercials.” (Postman, 1985). Postman blames American’s as a whole for the cause of using social media as a way to entertain each other, instead of just talking with one another. The Idol, Theatre, means tradition, dogma, received knowledge, and superstitions where Postman’s bias lies. Postman inquires Theatre in his book to explain how America has strayed from a tradition that tradition being able to talk to one another, “[It] is not that television is entertaining but that it has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representation of all experience. […] The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” (Postman, 1985). The last Idol that Postman uses is Marketplace; this is discourse, rhetoric, advertising, marketing and social media. With this, Postman uses his diction and words to get across what he wants the world to know and uses this Marketplace to persuade them. “The television commercial is not at all about the character of products to be consumed. It is about the character of the consumers of products.” (Postman, 1985).
The Electronic Bribe: Power & Knowledge in the Video Age by Sue Jansen is an article that talks about Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, Imaginary Social Worlds by John Caughey and Sense of Place by Joshua Meyrowitz. Jansen compares each of these books with the other while reviewing them all together as one. The article shows how Jansen uses Aristotle’s rhetorical analysis by using logic, credibility, and emotions keep the audience engaged. The credibility lies within the three books, which she uses to compare and contrast the situations of technology. When comparing Meyrowitz and Caughey to Postman, she mentions that Postman is more “convinced that his message is too urgent” (Jansen, 1987), and it “is too urgent to be conveyed by the cadences of caution”(Jansen, 1987). Jansen’s bias towards Postman is that she thinks he is singing a certain “intellect, by favoring certain definitions of intelligence and wisdom and by demanding a certain kind of content…” (Jansen, 1987) Through this quote, Jansen is using logic to explain how Postman’s bias is through his position from one being a man and two, from being of the older generation not understanding the benefits that are given through technology. From what Jansen is saying, she finds that Postman projects arrogance when writing about what he thinks is correct. Jansen uses Bacon’s Idol of Theatre in the way that Postman writes in his book, stating, “According to Postman, television entertainment now provides the model against which all course is measured.” (Jansen, 1987) This proposes the thesis that Postman has stated, continuing with her mentioning: “Postman points out that the world staged by television is pervaded by discontinuity…” (Jansen, 1987). Bauerlein’s book is similar to the point that Jansen made in her article about Postman’s book. Along the lines of what Jansen talks about Postman and Bauerlein, it is determined that his word is the most important when discussing about the future generations. In Bauerlein’s book, The Dumbest Generation, he believes that something new and disastrous has happened to America’s youth with the arrival of the digital age which eventually leads to a collective loss of context and history, a neglect of “enduring ideas and conflicts.” This is where Postman and Bauerlein’s views meet. They both use the same Bacon’s idol Marketplace and talk of how the future generation is going to be co-dependent on technology, but what they neglect to see, is the good it can result in which Jansen tries to point out through each of the writers that she states in the article.
Though technology is a great thing in helping us progress and strengthens our society as a whole, technology can have a negative effect on our culture when it is being used in the wrong way. Postman talks about some of these reasons as to what is wrong with social media and television, when they became an important part of our lives, especially for younger generations. Baurelein’s work touches on the subject of the younger generation losing their intelligence due to technology. For comparing and contrasting the different matters as to what others have said about technology and determining the better outcomes of it in Jansen’s article. Following through an interview of Postman, we learn further on the points that Jansen has made as Postman being arrogant when really he was just trying to point out the negative point rather than the positive point in with Rubin. Each article and book demonstrated similar views as to what Postman had discussed while showing explanations of Francis Bacon’s Idols and Aristotle’s Rhetorical Appeals. Though there are many advantages to technology, the disadvantages are starting to weigh out in the effects that it has on society. There has to be a way to grow with technology, without letting technology take over.
Aurora and Rubin, E. (1989) Neil Postman: Stirring Up Trouble About Technology, Language, and Education. Available at: http://aurora.icaap.org/index.php/aurora/article/view/62/74 (Accessed: 9 April 2015).
Bauerlein, M. (2008) The Dumbest Generation. New York: Penguin Group USA.
Bizzell, P. and Herzberg, B. (2000) Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. 2nd edn. Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Jansen, S. C. (1987) ‘The electronic bribe’, Theory and Society. Springer, 16(4), pp. 621–628. doi: 10.1007/BF00134919.
Postman, N. (1985) Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse In the Age of Show Business. New York: Viking Adult.