Monday, February 4, 2013

Information Saturation

In chapter five of Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death, he addresses the idea of news or information losing its potency via the increase in popularity and use of the telegraph in the 19th century. Postman describes the situation thusly, "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."  The advent of the telegraph allowed for the transfer of information and "news" to far away places. Happenings on one coast were now magnetically transmitted messages being interpreted on the other. Individuals were being exposed to "news" that wasn't local, and because of this, they could do nothing about said news stories. In 2013, we're constantly being clubbed in the head with information from around the world, whether that be through the internet, television, or the radio. Interestingly enough, Postman describes many political situations in his book that are still hot topics today, such as conflicts in the Middle East, economic concerns, crime, and unemployment. Now that we're more exposed to "news" than we ever have been before, do you think we're more well equipped to deal with these issues? If I feel so inclined, I can go to Youtube and watch helmet-cam footage of United States military personnel engaging Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Does being able to do so give me more ownership of the conflict? Does taking a front row seat in the violence allow us as a society to make more well-informed decisions to stop the fighting, or prevent future conflicts from happening? Do you think being exposed to so much news all of the time has a generally positive or negative effect on society?


  1. Being exposed to so much of the news can be positive and negative. It is positive in that we are aware of what is going on in the rest of the world. It is negative in that the news only scratches the surface of events, and we base our opinions on the little information provided. The only knowledge we actually gain is whatever the media allows (scary). I think the only thing that gives us ownership over any situation is by actually being there. Watching a video of our military on YouTube does nothing, because we are limited to one perspective. I agree with Postman on this one. What does a panda being born at the Cincinnati Zoo have to do with my life? The news is for entertainment, not relevance.

  2. Postman is correct in asserting that in the 1980s the news people received was irrelevant to the viewers and as a result the discourse become more trivial. In conversation, people would simply pointed out the facts of the day. In other words, knowledge was replaced with just information. Much is the same today. Local news is overshadowed by national news and much of the content we receive lacks context and is delivered to us in a way that makes us seem powerless. However, the Internet in the 21st century has the potential to improve the content we receive and what we can do with that content. Unlike television, the Internet contains typographic content. Therefore the content is more likely to make a logical claim, rather than just state a trivial fact. But more importantly, the Internet gives the viewer the power to communicate with people across the globe and create our own public discourse. Thus global news may now become more relevant to us and we may be able to have a voice in matters outside our local community. It is up to us to take advantage of the Internet’s potential for encouraging action.

  3. In general I think it has a negative effect because I think many people aren't sure what to do with said information. I think with all of the information being thrown in a thousand different directions it has desensitized many people.