- Slides: 9
FMU Neil Postman: Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change
Postman’s Thesis The fundamental truths that dictate what it means to be human remain the same, but technology presents a unique set of problems. Technology is not inherently negative or positive, good or bad. But the way it gets used can be negative or positive, good or bad. Thus, we should shape our lives “to fit the requirements of culture” not “the requirements of technology”
Idea 1 � Technology is a trade-off; there always advantages and disadvantages. Technologies create change and biased views - Postman argues that technologies both do and undo What technologies undo is more important because we tend to focus entirely on what they DO do Examples: automobile, printing press � Effects on Storytelling Undo: printing press, movies, and other technology bring storytelling further away from its original form (face-to-face), which undoes or undermines the values and traditions once associated with storytelling Do: technology preserves memory and emotions that come along with it
Idea 2 � There are winners and losers when it comes to technological change – the winners are in control of the technology, the losers are being controlled by it � Advantages and disadvantages are never distributed equally among the population - imbalance of power � The losers are often persuaded to believe that they are gaining advantages from the technology (even if those in control of the technology are the real winners) � Depends on a multitude of factors: Religion Race Class/wealth Location Gender
Effects on Storytelling – Idea 2 � Storytelling is no longer an equal transaction – the “storytellers” of today have much more power than their listeners because technology mediates the conversation � The technology of today that shapes many of the stories we hear looks more like a machine more than an individual voice (i. e. Fox News or Miramax) � Example: wealth The wealthy people have access to phones, newspapers, and online resources This gives them the power to spread their story among a larger population. They then are the winners who benefit from technology. Consequence: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Idea 3 � There is an idea behind every technology that is often hidden from view due to its abstract nature (i. e. television values immediacy over history) � “The medium is the message” – the form of medium embeds itself in the message. Thus, in some cases, the medium matters more than the content itself (i. e. it’s not the speech that matters – it’s how you’re hearing it. In person? Over the radio? On television? The medium will shape your perception) � Effects of Storytelling Depending on the form of the story, the message will vary So, a story told face-to-face will send a different message than a movie because of how the listener interacts with the story
Idea 4 � New technology does not simply add something to our culture – it changes it entirely The changes are wholly irreversible and are often unanticipated, expected or predicted Technology impacts our values, behaviors and interactions (example: with the invention of TV, political discourse has declined) A capitalist society will constantly introduce the latest technology to promote economic growth – these cultural risk takers do not consider the consequences of this new technology (example: standardized testing – something that created a new industry and economic growth - was introduced without considering the long term effects on education) � Effects on Storytelling Technology has became intertwined with the storytelling making it a business, distancing the audience from the storyteller and the authentic experience of story Story telling has become a marketable good that one can put a price on, as opposed to a communal activity that leads to the development of our culture
Idea 5 � Technology is thought to be natural, inevitable. It has become mythic. � � It has become a form of idolatry to us We look to technology like we would look to some kind of diety People don’t realize how much technology can change or manipulate a story - they just accept that story as is (i. e. when you think of the story “Cinderella” you most likely see the Disney images in your heads – that version has become the absolute version. Technology controls the story) Because technology is so valuable to our society, we never question its validity or think about how it changes our view of the world through stories that have been manipulated to affect us in a certain way. In terms of storytelling, we automatically believe stories we hear through technology because we depend on it so heavily. Those stories become absolute. � People don’t think about why or how technology is there. It just is. However, we don’t think about how our view could be completely distorted by our feeling of belonging to technology. In sum, humans created technology and therefore it has the potential to be used for good or evil. Technology is not an inevitable part of God’s plan but a product of the human innovation. We should remember that ultimately we control the technology – the technology does not control us
Check for Understanding 1 -2 pages typed Based on discussions and reading this week, what can you conclude about the state of storytelling in today’s world? Consider our natural desire for story, technology’s role, and Postman’s argument among other things. You can use examples from class discussion or your own examples, but be sure to be specific in proving your points.