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Q: Amusing ourselves to death by Neil Postman ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Amusing ourselves to death by Neil Postman
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: aghaalireza-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 20 Oct 2003 19:22 PDT
Expires: 19 Nov 2003 18:22 PST
Question ID: 268123
I have two qustions and for each one,i need at least one page answer .
Questions are from "Amusing ourselves to death by Neil Postman" . 
1.Critically explain by your words , not from Postman, how has
televison "recreated and degraded" our conceptions of thinking and
2.Critically explain by your words,not from Postman,why does print
encourage critical literacy?
Subject: Re: Amusing ourselves to death by Neil Postman
Answered By: omniscientbeing-ga on 21 Oct 2003 18:52 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

1. “Critically explain by your words , not from Postman, how has 
televison "recreated and degraded" our conceptions of thinking and 

Throughout history, human beings have sought and created new media
with which to express themselves and communicate. A logical extension
of spoken, face-to-face language was written communication, which
enabled people to communicate directly even when not present
face-to-face. Written communication also enabled thought processes and
ideas to be preserved and maintained for the first time in a manner
other than verbal. However, it required substantial effort and
expenditure of mental energy to learn how to read and write, and those
who did so enjoyed a certain power over those who did not. Centuries
later, the advent of electricity and electronic devices opened up
entirely new avenues of communicating. These media also created, and
are still creating, a division of power.

The telegraph, invented in the 1800’s, enabled people to communicate
two-way written messages in a short period of time over long
distances. Next came telephones, which afforded people the opportunity
to talk with each other over great distances in real time. Each of
these inventions facilitated active, direct communication between
parties. In other words, one party speaks to another, listens to or
reads the reply, mentally formulates a response and speaks or writes
again. It’s an active thought process that requires fair-to-high
levels of mental activity to engage in.

In the 20th century however, new media came along which are inherently
different. In the early part of the 1990’s, the invention of radio
became the first true “mass communication” medium. With radio, sound
transmissions were able to be transmitted to thousands, and then
millions, of people who could listen in with a simple receiver. This
facilitated talk shows, where people voiced their opinions, as well as
music and sports shows. Concurrently, it gave rise to modern
advertising—the interruption of broadcast content in order to sell
products and services for profit.

What it also gave rise to was the first widespread instance of a
medium that was essentially one-way. Those on the receiving end of the
signal were rendered merely passive listeners. The true thinking was
done by those on the transmitting end of the signal. In other words,
the new “I’ll talk, you listen” medium rather surprisingly became
exceedingly popular. The average person was more than happy just to

This disparity only increased with the invention of television, which
was like radio but with accompanying moving pictures, first in “black
and white”, then in color. The more engaging the technology became,
the more people watched. Television, however-- even more so than
radio-- is a decidedly passive activity for the viewer. With
television, one could sit in the comfort of his/her own home, and be
transfixed for hours at a time by images and sound emanating from a
box in their living room. They could not talk back or respond directly
to the box, other than to change the channel or turn it off, but could
only watch and listen to what it put forth. And they loved it,
colloquialisms such as “idiot box” and “boob-tube” notwithstanding. 
More so than radio, telephone or any media before it, television was

The problem with television, however, was that for those who did the
watching, it was almost a destructive pastime. It stole one’s time,
for nothing was accomplished while partaking of it it, except perhaps
some restful entertainment at best. For those on the other side of the
screen, TV represented much more than that. It represented power,
control and wealth, for although each individual watching TV was not
important, collective decisions of “the viewers” would make or break 
fortunes of those behind the screens.

As it turned out, programmers of television content soon realize that
to be financially successful, their programming had to appeal to the
widest number of people possible. And most people, programmers soon
realized, were not that bright, nor were they interested in becoming
much brighter. They wanted to be entertained for the moment-- nothing
more, nothing less. This gave rise to the “dumbing down” of broadcast
content for the masses. If it is too intelligent, it passes “over the
heads” of most viewers, and profitability suffers. Therefore, to watch
television is to glimpse into the collective intellect of a nation.
This intellect can be represented as a bell curve—at the far right are
those of high or superior intellect—these are the ones in general who
are creating television’s content for the rest of the curve—those in
the middle and left side. For anyone watching television, this
represents a clear degradation of thought, since they will never be
exposed to material that surpasses the average intelligence of an
impossibly large audience—a “data set,” for all intents and purposes.
Since America’s sharpest advertising minds are working hard to appeal
to the “average” American, the situation isn’t likely to change.

As far as those on the middle and left side of the curve, they like
television because they figure that if they watch it, they must know
what’s “going on.” Surely, they think, whoever broadcasts its content
must know more than they do, or must be governed by some greater
system of checks and balances as to the content of what they air. If
it’s popular, it’s on TV. If it’s not on TV yet, then it’s not that
important yet. “Have you seen that on TV yet?”  People came to seek
television out as a great corroborator: “This is the car for you!
Look—the people in your favorite shows are all driving it! Ten million
upstanding American citizens also drive one! Why don’t you have one?”
In effect, people have recreated their own value systems to match
those of the collective audience of their favorite pastime:
television. Hence, we have seen how television has at once recreated
and degraded our value systems of knowledge and perception.

2. “Critically explain by your words,not from Postman,why does print 
encourage critical literacy?”:

In responding to this question, I’d like to first set forth a
definition of “critical literacy.” From this Tasmanian government
educational website
[ ]:

“Critical literacy includes: 
•	examining meaning within texts 
•	considering the purpose for the text and the composer’s motives 
•	understanding that texts are not neutral, that they represent
particular views, silence other points of view and influence people’s
•	questioning and challenging the ways in which texts have been
•	analysing the power of language in contemporary society 
•	emphasising multiple readings of texts. (Because people interpret
texts in the light of their own beliefs and values, texts will have
different meanings to different people.)
•	having students take a stance on issues. 
•	providing students with opportunities to consider and clarify their
own attitudes and values”

Print media inherently encourage critical literacy because they engage
a person’s critical faculty at the most fundamental level. Print is
the oldest form of media, and therefore is the most deeply rooted and
highly evolved of all media forms. When a person reads, the brain must
actively assimilate and process information at a rapid rate. This
process builds the intellect in a manner that translates well to all
media, since all media are descendants of print.

Words are the most basic building blocks of all modern communication.
No matter what the media, understanding it involves the mental
processing of words.  The brain has no distractions when reading
print—no sounds, images or physical interactivity of any kind—only
words. Therefore, an individual reading is forced to extract as much
as possible from the words in order to gauge their meaning, context,
relevance and value.

This encourages the development of discerning quantitative and
qualitative relationships, and of highly critical skills such as
asking “Who gains from this?”, “Who is disadvantaged by this?”, “What
is the purpose of this and that?”, “What would happen if it was like
this instead of that?”, etc. Reading is an active activity, as opposed
to a passive one, such as watching television, and as such develops
mental activity in general.

Another reason that print media (reading) encourages critical literacy
is that the participant (i.e. reader) is in control of the delivery,
or pacing, of the content. In other words, if one does not understand
something after initially reading it, one can pause and scrutinize it
before continuing. This controlled rate of assimilation is much
different than, say, television, where the content is streamed at the
viewer in real time, which the viewer cannot change. If a television
viewer does not quite understand the full scope of the dialogue she
just heard, there is not time to reflect on it, for new dialog and
developments are already occurring. (Yes, one could record the
television show and then rewind it several times, but this is an
inconvenience beyond what most people are willing to go through). Just
a few minutes of analytical thinking along a single train of thought,
such as a sentence in a novel, can yield important internal
discoveries for the reader. These realizations are typically not as
frequent for television viewers because of the lack of control over
the content’s introduction to the mind.

The other side of print, that of writing as opposed to reading, offers
an even higher degree of mental activity and critical faculty. When
writing, one must take into consideration many factors, including who
is one’s target audience, what the writer is trying to accomplish,
whether or not what has been written is accomplishing that, the rules
of grammar and syntax, spelling, relationships among abstract concepts
and many other factors.

Printed media encourages critical literacy by involving readers and
writers in an active thought process. This thought processes can be
conveniently paused at any time in order to further consider any
point, and ultimately fosters the elucidation of complex, symbolic
relationships. Knowledge of these relationships is highly transferable
to other media and life situations, including television, radio,
movies, live conversations and mathematical reasoning.

In closing, the power of the written word is literally as close to
“magic” as we can come. If one writes on a piece of paper, “blue
rabbit,” and hands that paper to another (literate) person, one can be
reasonably sure of what that person is now picturing in their head,
without having uttered a single syllable, or presenting actual images
of any kind. It’s a form of telepathy, if you will. With this kind of
power, it is certain that print media will be a mainstay of human
communication for centuries to come.

Google search strategy:


“critical literacy definition”:

“critical literacy”:

“Neil Postman”:

“Amusing ourselves to death by Neil Postman”:

I hope this satisfies your need for information on this topic. If it
for some reason does not, or if you would like me to further explain
anything I have written here, please do not hesitate to ask for
Clarification to this Answer.

Good luck on your project!


Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by aghaalireza-ga on 25 Oct 2003 16:07 PDT
I like your answers and thank you very much, but could you write it
again with more simplicity and with the same content?

Clarification of Answer by omniscientbeing-ga on 26 Oct 2003 14:20 PST

I'm not quite sure what you mean by rewriting with "more simplicity
but same content." Is there a specific grade level or college level it
should be targeted to? If you can give me some ideas and/or examples
of how you'd like it to be different, I could perhaps rewrite it for

Google Answers Researcher
aghaalireza-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

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