Monday, January 21, 2013

The media's 'junk'



The media's 'junk'

Neil Postman starts off chapter two discussing junk we have found in the media. He begins by mentioning how junk was in print-oriented medias for years before the birth of the internet or television. Postman also mentions how old-cultures thrived on the media’s junk. However, even the old-cultures found value within their media’s junk.

Today, we have junk on the internet, the television, and in gossip magazines everywhere. Neil Postman says, “And so I hold no objection to television’s junk. In fact, some of the best things on television are its junk, and no one or nothing is seriously threatened by it. Besides, we do not measure a culture based on its output of undisguised trivialities, but what it claims as significant. (pg. 16)”

Postman eventually ends the chapter by mentioning that the history of communicate is littered with changes. However, there are tradeoffs. With each new change, whereas things become easier to access, junk material becomes easier to access as well. Today, our access to media is greater then ever with our new technologies. Unfortunately, college kids usually hold the internet, television, books, and magazines as strictly entertainment purposes. However, do we value the entertainment aspect higher than the scholarly academic purposes? I hear Postman’s echo, “Besides, we do not measure a culture based on its output of undisguised trivialities, but what it claims as significant.”

If a person’s value on junk material is higher than an academic purpose when it comes to a specific media, does this have to be a negative feature to our nation’s society?

6 comments:

  1. I with Postman's assessment of "junk" for the most part, but I also see the danger in dismissing the threat of "junk" all together. I think people can view junk without accepting it as a truth. For example, someone may watch MTV, but fully recognize the ridiculousness of the material it presents. In fact, I would guess that most people that watch MTV do not do so to seek any truths regarding our society - they do so for entertainment purposes. However, I do believe junk can pose a threat when it begins crossing over into media we do not consider to be junk, like news. I believe our best defense may be to simply recognize this junk where it exists, and avoid accepting it as truth.

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  2. I disagree with Postman's argument that "no one or nothing is seriously threatened by the junk" because I think Postman overlooks the implied messages that many entertainment programs elicit (I should cut him some slack though because when he published his book in 1986 there was not nearly as much garbage on television as there is today). Take the TLC program "Toddlers and Tiaras" for example. All one has to do is consider the gender messages that "Toddlers" conveys to find the programs problematic ideologies. The show promotes a materialistic lifestyle for women and girls and encourages them to use their bodies rather than their minds. Even scripted television programs like "2 and a Half Men" and "Sons of Anarchy" are problematic portrayals of masculinity because they promote violence and subordinating women. Gender issues do not directly relate to our class, but consider the overall effect of the problematic ideologies of television shows. If individuals continue to consume these problematic ideologies, they become more simplistic and therefore they are less likely care about the contingent issues of our culture.

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  3. Doesn't "Junk" like MTV present some kind of truth to our society though? "Junk" exists only because we label it as such, but what I label "junk" may not be so labeled by someone else. We don't even have a clear definition of what "junk" is. Is it just meaningless communication? Sense when is any communication meaningless? I understand there are important issues to discuss and scholarly ways to go about discussing them, but where do we get off dismissing any form of communication as "junk" be it a news article or a song written by a third grader? Our ever changing societies are trying to communicate with one another and not just to discuss big picture issues, but to share humor, grief and plenty of other emotions. I don't agree with half the shit I hear on the History Channel, but hesitate to call it "junk" just because its message doesn't resonate with me.

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  4. I agree with Jake - people who watch a lot of the shows that they do have the ability to recognize that what they are watching is...not contributing to their lives outside of mindless entertainment.

    I also think Richard brings up an interesting point in that 'junk' can mean a different thing to different people. Though I don't watch much TV outside of some sports and old episodes of comedy shows on DVD (30 rock, Simpsons, Office, Arrested Development), I think that there are some quality shows out there that could be put on the level of novels.

    I think that is something where netflix has come in - it has made quality shows even more accessible for people. Many people I know don't watch or maybe don't even have cable - they just watch shows here and there on netflix.

    This still gets back to 'what is junk'? I don't think that a lot of the shows out there with stronger characters and narratives (whether they are comedy or drama) are junk per se, but that is my opinion. Someone could argue that they are the junk and American Idol is the good stuff. I think what is important is not necessarily that we label things as 'junk' or not, but that we are aware that when we watch movies, tv shows, play video games, or go on the internet, we are aware of what they are saying. I don't think the danger lies in performing the activities, just in turning our brains 'off'. If we can critically think about the things we do, we will be better off I think.

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  5. Perhaps academic online journals such as JSTOR should release their databases to the public so that they all may be utilized? Only allowing access to university students seems a bit silly to me. It would be a small victory if these documents were made available to the general public, but it certainly wouldn't hurt countering the online community that is supposedly inundated with a bunch of worthless junk.

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  6. I think some aspects of our media and it's junk - is a bad influence on everyone. For instance, it has become easier (in some ways) for people to become internet bullies. I think when people sit with their technology and become used to not communicating face to face. Socialization becomes difficult as well. I believe we will come to a point where there will be some dramatic situation that will cause people to look at technology in a different way. Not a bad way - but people may become more cautious, and use the internet in moderation. Who knows.

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