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Neil Postman's Ten Media Commandments

Used in BA2 of IB curricula at Brébeuf.

pierre drolet

on 16 February 2017

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Transcript of Neil Postman's Ten Media Commandments

5. The ''Age of Show Business''
9. Preachers, Politicians and Teachers
Who was Neil Postman?
6. Technology Medium
Here's how these three groups have changed:

Preachers have become the
of the celebration. God
(or Allah, Vishnu, or whatever) is now ''second banana.''

Politicians tell the people what they want as opposed to telling them what they need to hear. Think of debates on TV. The mantra for all of those taking part is ''don't screw-up!'' There is also the idea that
TV alters the perception
of the candidate.

Teachers now are into
with Powerpoints, videos and... Prezis!!!
The pace of messages on TV is quite fast and that quality of the medium is one of its hallmark qualities.

Add to this the presence of
and the entertainment factor is enhanced;

Add the concept of
, creating commercial television, which stood in opposition to public, or state-run television, and you've now got a completely different beast.

Add to that the notion of
product placement
, which happened on TV but really took root in big box office films from, you got it, entertainment-land.
7. SPEED KILLS... the connection between concepts
3. The increase of
in North America is important.
The New World was colonized by peoples who were keenly aware that reading was important. While there was no uniform literacy across the vast land, new colonialists were very much pro-reading.
2. Different media change societal views of truth.
Western history has progressed through
traditions to the one that dominates with a focus on
Each of these shifts has incurred a

in time allotted to absorb information.
was a humanist whose approach to teaching at NYU focused on a critical view of the effects of various media on society and its individuals. He is best-known for
Amusing Ourselves to Death
which has been a staple of university humanities curriculum since its publication. What follows are ten salient points from this seminal work.
Neil Postman's
Amusing Ourselves to Death
, or how television might have killed our ability to control what we think....

1. The medium that Postman focuses on is television. What he notes is that there is a massive importance in the shift from the
graphical (written) form of communication to one that focuses on the

Note the

in tele
Postman's view of McLuhan's quip ''The medium is the message.''
We know that the written word can be manipulated and misunderstood. Postman was aware of this, particularly so as the growth of typography increased on the young continent. The following ideas contributed to the birth of the ''Age of Exposition'' :

can exaggerate, cajole, influence and lie outright.

By the same token,
are bound to underestimate,
imbibe too naively and misread.

The advent of early
written products caused a sensation.
They differed from what we know to
be advertisements today. These were
more like
public notices
of specific events.
However, they quickly grabbed readers'
attention and, in doing so,
it from
the main tract of the text.
4. The ''Age of Exposition'' is born
If diversion is the
then TV is the

We've been partaking of this medium for so long that we've become addicted to it. The result, as per Postman, is that we no longer realize that the diversions are not information. The result of this is that
has been replaced by

Are you OK with this conclusion?

8. Society has been ''narcoticized'' by technical diversions.
Postman suggest that exposition gave way to show business with the popularization of these inventions:
(which reduced the vast distances in the New World);
Penny newspapers
of the 1830's (which were the predecessors of 2015's Metro 24 Hours);
negatives printed in magazines & papers;

These all contributed to the
of information into smaller pieces. This in turn required less intelligence to understand and, more importantly, represented the early
of the various pieces of information.
Postman's point in illustrating these changes is that cultural
adapt the current language
in use.
So, culture becomes entertainment.
Technology is the brain (the container) while a medium is the mind (how technology is used).

Of interest to Postman here is that the prevalent growth of television has encouraged society to think that the only way to experience information is
through the screen
. How would Postman react to today's society?
Postman knows that there is bad TV and he's
OK with that; he doesn't like the bad TV that
to be ''educational''.


Postman's concern is called a Huxleyan warning.

This refers to the difference between Orwell & Huxley's futuristic views.

Orwell's famed view is one where the banality of society is imposed by a totalitarian governance.

Huxley presented the more disturbing trend
of people opting for the banality of existence
our of their own free will.

Which side do
opt for?
Full transcript