Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death is an important book that explores the effects of mass media on modern culture. This paper is aimed at summarizing the first two chapters of this book, namely The Medium is the Metaphor and Media as Epistemology.
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Overall, in these section of his work, the author argues that the growing importance of television influence the content of modern of culture and change the way in which people acquire knowledge about themselves and the world. In particular, the trend which has been identified by the author can result in the situation when individuals will not be able to analyze information from a critical standpoint. This is the main argument that can be put forward.
In the first chapter The Medium is the Metaphor, Neil Postman speaks about the declining importance of printed media on the public opinion and the rise of television as the main medium that shapes attitudes, values, opinions, and behavioral norms of individuals and groups. The most important argument made by the writer is that this shift changes the content of culture in part because printed media and television can present information in different ways.
This is one of the reasons why the content of culture is “most suitable to television” (Postman 8). The main effect of this change is that people can change the way in which they think. For instance, they can be accustomed to more simplified presentation of information which does not require significant mental effort. These are the main issues that Neil Postman explores in the first chapter of the book.
In turn, the second chapter Media as Epistemology the author argues that mass media shape the way in which individuals acquire knowledge and assess the information. In the author’s opinion, the printed media prompted people to do a more rigorous evaluation of the information. Moreover, the author had to present a coherent and logical discourse in order to justify his/her arguments. In contrast, this discourse cannot always be found in the messages offered by the television.
It should be kept in mind that the television can make a person less critical in his/her assessment of data. Apart from that, Neil Postman refers to the famous argument according to which “seeing is believing” (Postman 24). This means that people are often uncritical in the assessment of evidence. Therefore, many individuals can come to the belief that the information offered by television is the most reliable one.
Certainly, some of the claims that the writer makes can be questioned. In particular, one should not suppose that the rise of television inevitably marginalizes printed media. Such an assumption seems to be too exaggerated. In the first two chapters, the writer does not say that printed media are of little importance nowadays. Nevertheless, he insists on the idea that the transformation technology and the advent of new media can transform many aspects of contemporary culture.
So, it is possible to say that in the first two chapters of his book, Neil Postman raises several important questions about the role of mass media in modern society. The author shows that the growing importance of television can influence many aspects of modern culture. In particular, it can lead to the situation when individuals and groups will acquire knowledge in a less critical way. Moreover, the content of culture can be altered so that it could meet the format of the media.
Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, New York: Penguin Books, 2005. Print.