31 January, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death (my first reaction)

"No clearer example of the difference between earlier and modern forms of public discourse can be found than in the contrast between the theological arguments of Jonathan Edwards and those of, say, Jerry Falwell, or Billy Graham, or Oral Roberts. The formidable content to Edwards' theology must inevitably engage the intellect; if there is such a content to the theology of the television evangelicals, they have not yet made it known." -Neil Postman, 1985 Amusing Ourselves to Death


I am loving this fascinating read that I am (ironically?) working through in my Mass Media Theory class (at the very university Dr. Falwell founded in 1971). My professor is a sharp Northwestern grad that encourages balanced dialogue and critical thinking. Mr. Postman's criticism of the Age of TV is still relevant but must be considered differently in light of the changes that have occurred in media. No longer are we simply recipients of 1-way communication. Now not only are we are constantly selecting (even down to advertisements thanks to DVR and Hulu) the media we'll take in but we are also responding back to it. With Twitter, conversation between "regular people" and "celebrities" occurs instantaneously. (This happened to me with Tony-winner and star of ABC's 'Private Practice' Audra McDonald.)  With Youtube's comment section all voices are made equal. The question our professor has challenged us with as we are reading Postman's book is: Given that virtually all media have some form of consumer/end user input to the communication system; does this affect Postman's conclusions?

With the advent of new media, lectures have become conversations and mindless agreement has been replaced by brazen honesty. What are the next steps in this process of reshaping media? I don't have a prediction yet. However, I'm excited to continue reading a book for a class that absolutely relates to my life. And they said grad school was impractical. Pssh.

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