Book Review: 2 Treasure Boxes
Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); Revised edition (December 27, 2005), Paperback: 208 pages, ISBN-10: 014303653X, ISBN-13: 978-0143036531
What impact does entertainment have on our society? In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman draws parallels between society’s obsession with entertainment and Huxley’s Brave New World where people escape reality in numerous ways. Postman believed that television was creating a Huxleyan world view where citizens would stop thinking and instead, come under common hypnosis within a “world of technological narcotics”. Postman also felt that watching television was not the problem and “the solution must be found in how we watch”.
Neil Postman (1931–2003) was chairman of the Department of Communication Arts at New York University and founder of its Media Ecology program. He wrote more than twenty books. Amusing Ourselves to Death was first released in 1985 and in 2005 it was reissued, including an introduction by Andrew Postman.
The book is well written and examines the numerous ways that television watching has changed society. He provides an interesting history of media starting in Plato’s time and moving forward. His chapter on “Typographic America” was insightful. He brings us forward to 1985, the Age of Entertainment, where information is released in 90 second time frames. Programmers want to do whatever is necessary to hold the interest of the audience. Postman felt that “the problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject manner but that all subject is presented as entertaining.”
This is a good, thought provoking read and I recommend it. In manner ways the concerns that Postman had about television can also be applied to the internet.