Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Just my thoughts on the Postman quote

I'm just going to state my thoughts that ran through my mind as I read this quote from Postman.

First of all, he states that it's overrated. At the time, the computer probably was, but that was because it couldn't do much. Now, it's very underrated because it can do more than we ever imagined! I would love to hear his opinion about technology today. He'd probably have a heart attack, haha.

He goes on to say that people have given it their "mindless attention; which means they will use it as they are told, without a whimper." People aren't told to use computers anymore. They choose to. Throughout my college career, I had the choice to use pen and paper to take notes and/or to use my computer. I'm kind of oldschool, so I chose paper for the first few years, but then I realized how much quicker I can type than write, so I eventually switched. I read an article from another post on this site earlier today that was the thoughts of a guy who had walked away from the internet and his computer for a year. He enjoyed it at first, but discovered that it's not that we get bored easily. It's that we have started using computers to combat boredom or to kill time. In other words, we choose to spend our lives on them.

Postman ends his quote by saying computers have "created at least as many they may have solved." This is interesting to note because we have created many solutions to many problems over the years. Technology has made people closer, has improved the quality of life through life-saving surgeries and such, and has answered many questions that would otherwise never be answered by a single person/group of people. On the other hand, we have made things more complicated for ourselves in some cases. We have changed the way our brain thinks, for example. We think in short snippets most of the time, as opposed to the past when we could sit for hours and listen to Lincoln and Douglass debate (to use Postman's example).

As I stated above, and as others have mentioned, it would be extremely interesting to hear Postman's point of view on today's obsession with media, internet, and technology in general.


  1. Yeah I think part of the problem with this quote is that Postman is not really talking about the same internet that we know. It has completely changed and apart from taking a year off from it, we do not have very good ways to step back and see it objectively.

    It is easy to say that I technology has ruined us and changed the way our minds works, but who's to say this is a bad thing? I don't think we will be able to properly characterize today's internet until it is too late to change anything. Hindsight's 20/20 as they say. Whatever choices we make about our internet usage, we are going to have to live with. I would like to see what Postman thinks about today's internet though, probably similar to how he characterizes television.

  2. I agree with you both and think that Postman's statement about the internet is not very reflective of the type of internet we use today. Although the internet has unfortunate side effects, it is also very helpful. Since taking this course I have tried to take a step back and look at how dependent I am on my computer and the internet and I have noticed that I do rely on both of these things quite frequently. But I don't necessarily think that that is a bad thing. I am not a part of many social networking sites and find that when I use my laptop it is mostly for school work. So I think that Postman has failed to see some of the usefulness that comes from the internet.

    However, the internet has provided users with instant gratification in the fact that it will provide answers for us almost immediately. This unfortunately can lead to a decrease in a person's ability to find answers for themselves. But I think that the internet is whatever people make it out to be. The user gets to decide how they want the internet to impact their life.

  3. Honestly, I don't think that Postman would change his stance a bit. First off, I don't think that he was being literal when he said that people use computers "as they are told." I think he was simply saying that if there is a tool available which is advertised for a specific purpose, then people will use it for that purpose without questioning why that is its purpose, or even how it accomplishes it as long as it gets the job done. While he may have been referring to the push to get computers into mainstream culture, so the literal being told to use them, I just don't get that vibe from him.

    Secondly, though computers have solved many problems, I feel that Postman would focus more on the psychological effects of the internet on people. I could see him being one of those people who sits in a Texas Roadhouse and sneers at the group of teenage girl sitting at the next table who have obviously come to spend time together, but are all sitting silently, doing things on their separate iPhones. I'm sure he would be terrified by the decrease in concentration that many report as a result of internet usage, and also would berate the internet for all of its "junk" as he did the television. All in all, I think that, since computers and the internet relate to many of the same issues that television does, he would simply bring all of the same arguments plus a few more against it.

  4. I agree with Anna that Postman’s thoughts on the computer and the internet would not change from when this book was published in 1985. To me he seemed like one of those people that were very set in their ways and wouldn’t often change what he thought. Now I can’t say that was who he really was, but that is just an observation I believe many of us have thought.

    When I was looking at this quote I really focused on the “mindless attention” part and the very end where he states that there will be more problems created than there would be solved as well. I was stuck on these ideas I think mainly because they irritated me. As you point out Amanda we choose to use computers and ultimately the internet so obviously we are thinking in some manner. Now I think we can fall into a mindless process of checking certain pages like social medias or other websites we visit often, but like Bailey says, we can use the internet for more than just to fill our boredom—for educational or professional purposes. I mean I like how you put it, that we choose to use computers and the internet to combat our boredom because the mundane things that Postman might have done when he was younger could be irrelevant to kids (or adults) today. I don’t know, that’s just a thought.

    As for the end of the quote, I was irritated because it seemed so one sided—as you basically point out. I think Postman does that a lot throughout his book, though he does address more than one side. He is just so stuck with his one side. Honestly I don’t know how to take what he says sometimes. Moving on, you point out really good points that as much as technology has help create many solutions, there have been complications that have risen from the solutions—like privacy issues.

  5. As I continue to read and reread Postman's work, I have great trouble in determining what his point of view really is. To me, it seems difficult to imagine that Postman really believes that computers have "created at least as many they may have solved," among others. I found insight in what Dr. Donnelly said earlier in that he often plays devil's advocate to get us thinking about things we wouldn't consider otherwise, which I believe Postman does a lot of the times. I also suspected this further when we watched that video of him in class, in which he came across as much more moderate than he does in his book. In this case, I think what Postman is trying to combat is the way we typically give new technologies our "mindless attention," as he states. Sure, computers and the internet are great tools and have incited many advances in our society, be we also need to be weary of their negative or possibly negative implications at the same time.