Neil Postman on How a Technology Makes People Use Their Minds

From Crossing a Digital Divide, by Cherie Harder, president of the Trinity Forum:

Sometimes dramatic changes happen with little fanfare. This year, a cultural Rubicon was crossed, as significant as it was unheralded: the time we spend on mobile devices now exceeds the time spent with TV. . . .

Why does this matter? Perhaps one of the best summations was offered by the late sociologist Neil Postman in a speech over twenty years ago, when he noted:

…every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards. This is the sum…of what Marshall McLuhan meant when he coined the famous sentence, “The medium is the message.”

He also noted:

The writing person favors logical organization and systematic analysis….The telegraphic person values speed, not introspection. The television person values immediacy, not history. And computer people, what shall we say of them? Perhaps we can say that the computer person values information, not knowledge, certainty not wisdom. Indeed, in the computer age, the concept of wisdom may vanish altogether.


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