Critique of Postman

Neil Postman was a scholar who studied mass media and the rise of technology. In his article The Peek-A-Boo World, he argues that our world is diminishing because of technology. He believes that people are taking advantage of technology and how it is used. He believes that it is used for meaningless things such as having a boring conversation over the phone or having the television on while cooking dinner. He puts emphasis on these things to create his main argument which is technology is bad. I disagree with him because technology has done so many good things for our world. It helps us communicate faster, makes hard tasks easier, and gives us more opportunities in every field. I believe that his opinion is ignorant to the reason that technology exists.

He starts his article off discussing the invention of the telegraph. The telegraph was invented so people could communicate messages without being face-to-face. This was supposed to be helpful but Postman saw this invention as an attack on the discourse saying that it introduces “irrelevance, impotence, and incoherence”. I disagree because it allowed people to communicate with the people around them in a faster, more efficient way. A lot of the conversations that were held on the telegraph were conversations to loved ones that are away or to a co-worker about an important thing happening at work. This efficiency allowed people to receive important information in a more timely fashion.

Postman continues his article by going into the negative impact of photographs have done for our society. He believes that photographs lack syntax, offers no opinion, and it is preemptively a word of fact. I disagree because photography is an art which is to be interpreted. A picture says a thousand words and I cannot agree more. Postman is missing the point because a photograph can literally mean anything. The picture itself is a medium but what us behind that medium are many different messages. He also attempts to claim that painting used imagery to better communicate their purpose and the photograph assaulted that premise. I feel like the photograph is an updated version of the painting. Yes, the moment is captured quicker but they still have the same purpose. Both are still art forms that communicate a certain message that can be interpreted by others as much as they like.

He introduces the title concept of a peek-a-boo world at the end of his article. He defines a peek-a-boo world as a self-contained world without coherence that does not make sense that contains a lot of entertainment which is similar to a child’s game of peek-a-boo. He applies this concept with the effects of television and computers. First, he argues that television is a new type of command center. What he means is that we learn what phone system to use, what products to buy, who movies to see, what television programs to watch from the television set. I will agree that he is on the ball here but a viewer does not have to participate in what the television is trying to sell. They have a freedom of choice. They could be influenced or not care about what is being shown. It is up to the viewer to interpret the message being seen. The televisions’ purpose is to use visuals and video to expose us to things that we did not know before.

The final piece of technology that he discussed was the computer. He talked about how the computer has become so dominant that it is mandatory for children and adults to be computer literate in the workforce. This is the world we live in today. Computers are so beneficial to our society and they have done revolutionary work in every field. He also believes that both the computer and television control our knowledge about the ways of knowing our knowledge of the world. That is not entirely true. Yes, both the computer and the television play a dominant role in the way we learn but they are not the only way we learn about our world. We can learn new things by reading a book, going outside, enrolling in a class, and many more. To dismiss the accomplishments of both the television and computer is just silly to me because they are not the mind-controlling things that Postman claims them to be. Both have made huge accomplishments in the technological filed.

Due to these technological advances, we are now more efficient than ever in everything that we do. Postman should be appreciative of how technology has advance but instead he is whining about how it used to be. I do not know if he noticed but things change and if he does not like it, he does not have to comply with it but his critiques are so off-point. He does not understand how technology changed the world for the better. He does not get how technology presents us with opportunities that were not there before. He wants the past to stay in the past and unfortunately that cannot happen. His article was completely off base to the reality that we live in today. Because of these advances, we are in a faster, more efficient society than ever. If Postman does not see this as a positive thing, he is living under a rock.