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3120: 2Dumbing Down Thesis

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David Moscowitz

on 2 September 2016

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Transcript of 3120: 2Dumbing Down Thesis

The Dumbing Down Thesis
Digital media is a
that pursues its buyers (audiences). We are too distracted to discern...
Postman lauds 18th & 19th century Americans as one of the most literate societies in human history...but more recently...

Between 1982 and 2002, fiction reading decreased by 10% among all adults, by 28% for those under 25.
The proportion of 17 year olds who read nothing (unless required by school) doubled between 1984-2004.
If current researchers are right that interest in current affairs is declining, then what interests us instead?
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985)

- Media discourse, how we have conversations, impacts the content of those conversations as well as evolution of public culture.

- It's not just "trashy TV." All televisual modes (
) skew toward triviality. Typographic modes (
) embrace complexity.

- When the printing press dominated, public discourse was "serious and rational."
With image-based communication, discourse has become "shriveled and absurd."
The arc of media is short, and it bends toward superficiality.
TV news, says Postman,
consists of:

- "now this...."
- short vignettes
- visual stimulation
Are Postman and Bauerlein overgeneralizing? Can you present a supported response to them?
Television is our cultural “command center”:

Television gives us conversation through "
images, not words
Public discourse often takes the form of
and media
Stephen Colbert's "
" (2006 word of the year by several sources):
Facts come
from the gut, not a book
Truth-mongers are "
all head, no heart
Mark Bauerlein (2009)
Bauerlein cites numerous social science reports (like the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Study of Entertainment Media and Health) about media use.
The Dumbest Generation

The abundance paradox: we live in
the information age
but young adults are
knowledgeable about the world,
avid readers, and
capable writers.
64% knew the latest American Idol, but only 10% could name the Speaker of the House.
Only 33% knew which party controlled Congress.
Media literacy
set of perspectives
derived from:
1. information
2. context
Full transcript