According to Postman, media should be used to benefit humanity and that what benefits humanity needs to be discussed. In Postman’s opinion, which he clearly states is the only correct opinion, that any academic discussion centering on technology needs to include whether or not that technology is supporting our morals as human beings or whether it is supporting destructive behavior. Postman made it very clear that people can differentiate on whether or not certain technologies or mediums are humane, but they should not disagree that the conversation has to be had.
I appreciate that Postman encourages discussion of different mediums and acknowledges that not all forms of technology are beneficial and that the opinion can change over time, “What I am leading up to is that while we must keep in mind that not all people agree on what is an advantage or a disadvantage, and that time might alter our judgment of the effects of a medium, one can still take a definite view about whether or not a medium contributes to or undermines humane concepts,” (p. 13). One of Postman’s examples of this was Socrates’ opinion of writing and how it forces students to follow an argument as opposed to participate in an argument. I had a difficult time with that concept at first, considering having been raised in a society where the written word is considered “old” technology and even a dying art, yet it was interesting to think of a discussion as opposed to a paper and how different one thinks while doing both. I often times find that I absorb much more after having discussed a topic than having just written about it. After considering Socrates’ opinion and my personal experience with writing, I have come to my personal conclusion that writing is an incredibly effective and useful technology for delivering an idea, but discussion is much more effective in creating, defining and tweaking an idea. This ideology supports that certain technologies can be useful in certain circumstances, but are not necessarily useful in all situations. Technology should be ranked because it is not useful across the board.
I found Postman’s comments on rational thinking to be most interesting, “The question suggests that I believe that rational thinking is one of humanity’s greatest gifts, and that, therefore, any medium that encourages it, such as writing or print, is to be praised and highly valued. And any medium that does not, such as television, is to be feared,” (p.13). This comment not only ranks technologies, but also addresses the idea that some technology, despite being a technological advancement, is not necessarily a human advancement. It brings up another argument, though, that rational thinking is the only type of thinking that humans should be involved in. I prefer to balance rational thinking with creative, and for the sake of argument, irrational thinking, because rational thinking might not necessarily support growth and innovation.
Lastly, the entire idea of Postman’s that technology should not just be accepted because it is new, but needs to be analyzed to make sure it is necessary and beneficial is refreshing and valid. My favorite quote of Postman’s, minus his few jokes in the opening paragraph, were his closing remarks, “Let me conclude, then, by saying that as I understand the whole point of media ecology, it exists to further our insights into how we stand as human beings, how we are doing morally in the journey we are taking. There may be some of you who think of yourselves as media ecologists who disagree with what I have just said. If that is the case, you are wrong,” (p. 16). Technology should not just be blindly embraced for the sake of technological advancement. It is critical that as a society we discuss what is really advancing us. Is it really that much of an advancement to email your co-worker who sits 10 feet away when we live in a country that is plagued by obesity? We cannot have technology for technologies sake; we must have technology for humanities sake. Maybe we need more rational thinking to impede innovation a little so we can take a few minutes to evaluate whether or not we are moving in the right direction as a society.
Postman is against television because it doesn’t support rational thinking (I don’t really understand how it negates childhood, I suppose now with the horrible choice of shows for children that might be a valid argument, but I would be interested in hearing his views on that), yet he is fine with the written word and reading because all of the brilliant minds of our world came from a background of reading and writing. If we only think rationally, technology would most likely be slower, yet more precise and effective, yet there would be no creativity. Would technology suffer if there was no creative and only rational thought? Or is creativity the issue? Do we have a society that considers writing on someone’s facebook wall actually talking because of too much creativity and not enough rational thinking? Is creativity and irrational thinking interchangeable or related? Would it have been better to slowly progress technologically?
I think this reading is incredibly relevant in a society that seems to accept and love technology without considering the backlash, drawbacks and sacrifices made to humanity. Postman’s urging to actually dissect and consider what technology has actually advanced us is very brave considering the amount of money and manpower that go into creating these technologies and the convenience of most of them. However, convenience may not be supporting humanities better qualities, as Postman pointed out, humanity is good and evil, and that discussion and evaluation needs to take place.