Monday, September 13, 2010
I'm Booking It (August)
Despite being a busy summer, I was able to carve out a bit of time each week to indulge in some great reads. I got a lot of reading done while traveling in the car, an entire series completed during our week at the beach and lately I've been stealing an hour or so in the evenings after the little guys have gone to bed and Jon is busy doing homework. I feel like we've finally got our lives together from the move, things have slown down considerably now that summer is over, and Jude has started going to bed at the same time as Jack, so it's nice to have some legitimate time to settle down with a book during the week.
"...telegraphy gave a form of legitimacy to the idea of context-free information; that is, to the idea that the value of information need not be tied to any function it might serve in social and political decision-making and action, but may attach merely to its novelty, interest, and curiosity. The telegraph made information into a commodity, a "thing" that could be bought and sold irrespective of its uses or meaning" (p. 65).
"In the information world created by telegraphy, this sense of potency was lost, precisely because the whole world became the context for news. Everything became everyone's business. For the first time, we were sent information which answered no question we had asked, and which, in any case, did not permit the right of reply" (p. 69).
"Where people once sought information to manage the real contexts of their lives, now they had to invent contexts in which otherwise useless information might be put to some apparent use" ergo we now have crossword puzzles, cocktail parties, quiz shows and "Trivial Pursuit" (p. 76).
I found myself constantly thinking of today, 25 years after Postman wrote this book, and how much Facebook, Twitter and other social media resemble telegraphy.
Of course, this book was really about television and how this medium has affected society. It was interesting, but not exactly what I was expecting to read. Rather than suggesting we bust up our TVs or begin regulating the quality of programming, Postman says that "Television ... serves us most usefully when presenting junk-entertainment; it serves us most ill when it co-opts serious modes of discourse--news, politics, science, education, commerce, religion--and turns them into entertainment packages" (p. 159). Now, if you'll excuse me, "Top Chef" is on and I should probably go Tweet about how I've learned to cook bacon three ways. Bacon foam. Yum.