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Comparison: “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by N.Postman and “The Panopticon Writings” by J.Bentham Essay

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Updated: Apr 16th, 2020

The modern media is associated with the entertainment industry, and visuals are more important than words today. This idea is presented in the book Amusing Ourselves to Death written by Neil Postman which was firstly published in 1985. Nevertheless, the points discussed in the book are still relevant to speak about modern media and the effects of visuals on people’s minds (Postman).

The role of entertainment in the people’s life can be also analyzed with references to the philosopher Jeremy Bentham who states in his book The Panopticon Writings that people are oriented to the life full of pleasure and happiness, but it is rather difficult to represent these feelings in the forms of words (Bentham).

Thus, people prefer entertainment and pleasures along with visuals because it is often problematic for them to represent their feelings and emotions in the forms of words. Referring to the specialization of the modern television and the general trends in the culture development, it is possible to state that the role of the written, as well as spoken word, is not significant today in comparison with the role of images which directly evoke definite public’s emotions.

The concepts presented in the works by Postman and Bentham can be applied to the content of the movie Gamer (2009) because it is a vivid example of the discussion on the future of the people’s society in the world focused on unreal images rather than on words in arguments or real activities.

The main ideas or concepts discussed in Amusing Ourselves to Death by Postman are associated with the notions of entertainment and the role of visuals in the people’s life. Entertainment and visuals are closely connected concepts because it is easier for people to entertain themselves while focusing on definite images which present the information directly in the context and without referring to hidden meanings.

The information presented in words makes people think and analyze it, producing definite images in minds independently. That is why the modern media are only the metaphor for the information provided (Postman 20).

It is important to evoke the people’s emotions and reactions with the help of symbol, metaphor or visual effect. All the facts discussed in the media are presented in the form which is easier to perceive by the public, and these facts are often presented as entertaining (Postman 87-90).

From this point, the life represented with the help of television seems to be similar to a kind of a playground. As a result, the modern culture is based on the effective and vivid images accompanied by music which are developed to attract the public and entertain without providing definite information.

In spite of the fact the work of Jeremy Bentham is not directly connected with the concept of entertainment or images, there are a lot of ideas presented in the book which are correlated with Postman’s viewpoints.

Thus, it is possible to compare the authors’ discussion of the notions of entertainment and pleasure and the ideas of the visual reality presented by Postman and fictitious reality proposed by Bentham. According to Bentham, fiction is “the coin of necessity” (Bentham 128).

However, the most important idea discussed in Bentham’s work is the concept of the panopticon. The building in which it is possible to observe the activities in all the cells from the central place and control them because of the definite authority can be associated with the TV audience.

The activities in the cells are the representations of the life of the people round the world, and the control is possible with references to the viewer’s right to change the channel. Moreover, the accents are made on the analysis of the visual information about the people’s behaviors and actions in cells (Bentham 20).

The panopticon becomes the representation of the whole people’s life in its variety in the form of one building where only the central figure can control the activities in the cells.

The plot of Gamer is based on the depiction of the online game which becomes the part of the gamers’ reality. The inventor of the game Ken Castle makes people control the other humans as the figures in the game which is realized at the real life where there are real winners and victims. It is possible to discuss the idea of the film with references to Postman’s viewpoints. Gamer represents the reality of 2020.

Thus, it is possible to assume that the future world will be more dependent on the visual information in comparison with the current situation. Computer or online games are popular with the public because the vivid animated pictures provide the visual alternative for the real world. The game industry is based on images, and these images are presented in Gamer as alive (“Gamer”).

There is no difference between the real and fictitious worlds. In this case, it is possible to refer to the idea of fiction and its correlation with logics discussed by Bentham in his work.

The role of fiction in the panopticon which can be controlled is enormous because it is rather difficult for the prisoners of the panopticon to find the balance between reality and fictitious reality. The similar problem is discussed in Gamer where the gamers are controlled by the other people, and the borders between the realities are obscure (“Gamer”).

The panopticon is developed as a prison that is why all the prisoners in the building’s cells are controlled by the third party. The same situation is presented in Gamer because the participants of such a cruel game as Slayers are not free in their actions (“Gamer”). Their brains are controlled by the other persons.

According to Bentham, only bodies can be discussed as the real entities when all the other associated constructions such as surfaces, lines, forms, and actions are fictitious in their character (Bentham 118-120). From this point, the bodies of such gamers as John Tillman are real, but their minds and actions belong to the other reality controlled by the third party.

Combining the concepts discussed by Postman and Bentham, it is possible to state that the entertainment based on the vividness of the visual pictures of the game is more important for the people than the freedom in actions. The visual world as the prison which prevents people from independent thinking is also discussed in Postman’s book (Postman 101-110).

The notions and ideas presented in the books by Postman and Bentham can be applied to the aspects of modern culture because of their philosophical depth. In addition, the world of Gamer depicted as the reality of 2020 can be considered as the illustration for the realization of the most controversial predictions made by the authors in their works.

Works Cited

Bentham, Jeremy. The Panopticon Writings. USA: Verso, 1995. Print.

Gamer. 2009. Web.

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. USA: Penguin Books, 2006. Print.

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IvyPanda. "Comparison: "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by N.Postman and "The Panopticon Writings" by J.Bentham." April 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-amusing-ourselves-to-death-by-npostman-and-the-panopticon-writings-by-jbentham/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Comparison: "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by N.Postman and "The Panopticon Writings" by J.Bentham." April 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-amusing-ourselves-to-death-by-npostman-and-the-panopticon-writings-by-jbentham/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Comparison: "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by N.Postman and "The Panopticon Writings" by J.Bentham'. 16 April.

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