Amusing Ourselves to Death Summary.

Topics: Mass media, Communication, Television Pages: 2 (560 words) Published: March 30, 2013
Under the guise of a friendly household companion, in nearly every American living room lingers a cultural time bomb, set to detonate at the precise moment we realize we are too late. In Neil Postman's 1985 book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business”, the author informs us that our culture is molded by the media of our public information exchange, and enlightens us of the way the today's predominant medium represents a significant change from the media of yesteryear. Finally, he warns of the threat presented by that medium. Television has usurped the written word as the king of conversation, and its tyrannical reign may spell devastation for our society.

A culture is defined by its truths. Those truths are not universal, but uniquely shaped by the various media forms of a people (9). Information is shaped by the mode of its dissemination. Postman describes our media forms as “like metaphors, working by unobtrusive but powerful implication to enforce their special definitions of reality” (10). Our reality is an amalgamation of our perceptions. These perceptions are the representation of the distortion of information by the medium through which information is transmitted.

As evidenced by the massive revenue generated by its advertising, television is clearly the predominant medium of our culture's public discourse. While written forms once held this role, the advancement of technology has afforded television, and its captivating visual form, ascendance to the throne. This is a radical shift in American public discourse, with television delivering a “conversation in images” (7). Postman makes the assertion that two different mediums cannot deliver the same information the same way, and thus the message must change with the medium by which it is transmitted (8).

The impact of the popularity shift from written media forms to television is described by Postman as a transmutation from “coherent, serious and rational”...
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