>I’ve been thinking of the late Neil Postman lately. His seminal book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, would be a great re-read now with the presidential election looming. He was always one to remind us of how technology has changed the way we communicate, think, and conduct public discourse. He warned us of what we lose when politics becomes theater made for television rather than face to face debate and an exchange of substantial ideas. I was thinking of that when I was watching the Democratic convention last night. A convention, I have to say, that I thoroughly enjoyed and by which I was frequently moved to genuine emotion. Nevertheless, it was grand theater and the real proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Here is Neil Postman speaking ten years ago on technology and society:
I cannot help but wonder how the current political campaign, and the way we think about about it, has been affected by the Internet and other technologies, like the way the Obama campaign has been leveraging text messaging. What have we gained that was necessary to gain? What have we lost? And do we know what we have gained and what we have lost? Has political discourse qualitatively improved or declined? Unfortunately we may not know the effects until we’ve swallowed that pill.
FYI: TechPresident is a site dedicated to tracking the use of technology in the presidential election.
Years earlier, and along similar lines, Postman gave a lecture at a convention for English teachers. He titled it “Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection.” You can find it here. The basic premise of that lecture is ever more true today. I doubt he was ever invited back.