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Technopoly by Neil Postman :: A Book Review by Scott LondonTECHNOPOLYThe Surrender of Culture to TechnologyBy Neil PostmanAlfred Knopf, 1993Postman has emerged in recent years as one of America's most eloquent and outspoken critics of technology and in this book he elaborates on themes that will be familiar to readers of his earlier books, most notably Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985). Here Postman contends that "the uncontrolled growth of technology destroys the vital sources of our humanity.

It creates a culture without moral foundation," and reorders our fundamental assumptions about the world at large. New technologies alter our understanding of what is real, "which is another way of saying that embedded in every tool is an ideological bias, a predisposition to construct the world as one thing rather than another."A "Technopoly" (a word Postman capitalizes throughout the book) is a society that believes that "the primary, if not the only, goal of human labor and thought is efficiency, that technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgment .

and that the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts." The United States now ranks as "the only culture tohave become a Technopoly," he says. It does not come about by design, he says, rather it is the end-product of a system of beliefs predicated on science as a source of moral authority.One of the most ominous consequences of Technopoly, according to Postman, is the explosion of context-free information.

"The milieu in which Technopoly flourishes is one in which the tie between information and human purpose has been severed, i.e., information appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume and at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or purpose." The "information glut" leads to the breakdown of a coherent cultural narrative, he argues, for without a meaningful context, information is not only useless, but potentially dangerous.

He cites the old saying that, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and therefore, "to a man with a computer, everything looks like data."Postman describes the rise of new "control systems" to manage information, such as statistics, opinion polls, SAT and IQ tests, etc. These are predicated on the fallacy that information can be scientifically measured and stored, he says. The result is that we believe our IQ "score IS our intelligence .

that the results of opinion polls ARE what people believe . as if our beliefs can be encapsulated in such sentences as 'I approve' and 'I disapprove.'" What we often fail to recognize is that using statistics in polling changes the very nature of public opinion, he argues.

"That an opinion is conceived of as a measurable thing falsifies the process by which people, in fact, do their opinioning; and how people do their opinioning goes to the heart of the meaning of a democratic society."Since traditional information filters no longer work, Postman explains, we turn increasingly to experts, bureaucrats, and social scientists who, abetted by computers, control the flood of data. Experts are one thing when a technical solution is called for (space rocketry or the construction of a sewer system, for instance), but since even human relations have become "technicalized" there are now experts in social, psychological, and moral affairs.

The result is that we look for technical solutions to human problems. But it is a Faustian bargain, Postman says, one we can little afford to make. Related book review : Scott London discusses Neil Postman's The End of Education.Related book review : Scott reviews Postman's Building a Bridge to the 18th Century.Copyright 1994 by Scott London.

All rights reserved. Sorry, your browser is not supported. eNotes requires Internet Explorer 9 or greater. Please upgrade your browserto use eNotes.We apologize for any inconvenience, and thank you for your visiting.eNotes Support Original paperback version coverAuthorNeil PostmanCountryUnited StatesLanguageEnglishSubjectTechnology and societyPublished1992Media�typePrint ( Paperback and Hardcover)Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology is a book by Neil Postman published in 1992 that describes the development and characteristics of a "technopoly".

He defines a technopoly as a society in which technology is deified, meaning �the culture seeks its authorisation in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology�. It is characterised by a surplus of information generated by technology, which technological tools are in turn employed to cope with, in order to provide direction and purpose for society and individuals. [1]Postman considers technopoly to be the most recent of three kinds of cultures distinguished by shifts in their attitude towards technology � tool-using cultures, technocracies, and technopolies.

Each, he says, is produced by the emergence of new technologies that "compete with old ones�mostly for dominance of their worldviews". [2] Contents� 1 Tool-using culture� 2 Technocracy� 2.1 Values of "technological theology"� 2.2 Consequences of technopoly� 3 Criticism of Technopoly� 3.1 Technological determinism� 3.2 Values� 3.3 Science and ideology� 3.4 Persistence of old world ideologies� 4 Reviews� 5 See also� 6 Notes� 6.1 References� 7 External linksTool-using culture [ edit ]According to Postman, a tool-using culture employs technologies only to solve physical problems, as spears, cooking utensils, and water mills do, and to "serve the symbolic world" of religion, art, politics and tradition, as tools used to construct cathedrals do.

[3] He claims that all such cultures are either theocratic or "unified by some metaphysical theory", which forced tools to operate within the bounds of a controlling ideology and made it "almost impossible for technics to subordinate people to its own needs". [4] Technocracy [ edit ]In a technocracy, rather than existing in harmony with a theocratic world-view, tools are central to the "thought-world" of the culture. Postman claims that tools "attack culture�[and] bid to become culture", subordinating existing traditions, politics, and religions.

Postman cites the example of the telescope destroying the Judeo-Christian belief that the Earth is the centre of the solar system, bringing about a "collapse�of the moral centre of gravity in the West". [5]Postman characterises a technocracy as compelled by the "impulse to invent", [6] an ideology first advocated by Francis Bacon in the early 17th Century.

technopoly book summary He believed that human beings could acquire knowledge about the natural world and use it to "improve the lot of mankind", [8] which led to the idea of invention for its own sake and the idea of progress.

[9] According to Postman, this thinking became widespread in Europe from the late 18th Century. [10]However, a technocratic society remains loosely controlled by social and religious traditions, he clarifies.

For instance, he states that the United States remained bound to notions of "holy men and sin, grandmothers and families, regional loyalties and two-thousand-year-old traditions" at the time of its founding. [11]Postman defines technopoly as a "totalitarian technocracy", which demands the "submission of all forms of cultural life to the sovereignty of technique and technology".

[12] Echoing Ellul�s 1964 conceptualisation of technology as autonomous, "self-determinative" independently of human action, and undirected in its growth, [13] technology in a time of Technopoly actively eliminates all other �thought-worlds�.

Thus, it reduces human life to finding meaning in machines and technique. [12]This is exemplified, in Postman�s view, by the computer, the "quintessential, incomparable, near-perfect" technology for a technopoly. It establishes sovereignty over all areas of human experience based on the claim that it "'thinks' better than we can".

[14] Values of "technological theology" [ edit ]A technopoly is founded on the belief that technique is superior to lax, ambiguous and complex human thinking and judgement, in keeping with one of Frederick Taylor�s �Principles of scientific management�.

[15] It values efficiency, precision, and objectivity. [16]It also relies upon the "elevation of information to a metaphysical status: information as both the means and end of human creativity". The idea of progress is overcome by the goal of obtaining information for its own sake. [17] Therefore, a technopoly is characterised by a lack of a cultural coherence or a "transcendent sense of purpose or meaning".

[18]Postman attributes the origins of technopoly to � scientism�, the belief held by early social scientists including Auguste Comte that the practices of natural and social science would reveal the truth of human behaviour and provide "an empirical source of moral authority". [19] Consequences of technopoly [ edit ]Postman refers to Harold Innis� concept of "knowledge monopolies" to explain the manner in which technology usurps power in a technopoly.

New technologies transform those who can create and use them into an "elite group", a knowledge monopoly, which is granted "undeserved authority and prestige by those who have no such competence". Subsequently, Postman claims, those outside of this monopoly are led to believe in the false "wisdom" offered by the new technology, which has little relevance to the average person.

[20]Telegraphy and photography, he states, technopoly book summary information from something that sought out to solve particular problems to a commodity that is potentially irrelevant to the receiver. Thus, in technopoly, "information appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or purpose".

[21]In the U.S. technopoly, excessive faith and trust in technology and quantification has led to absurdies such as an excess of medical tests in lieu of a doctor's judgment, treatment-induced illnesses (� iatrogenics�), scoring in beauty contests, and an emphasis on exact scheduling in academic courses. [22] and the interpretation of individuals through "invisible technologies" like IQ tests, opinion polls, and academic grading, which leave out meaning or nuance.

[23] If bureaucracies implement their rules in computers, it can happen that the computer's output is decisive, the original social objective is treated as irrelevant, and the prior decisions about what the computer system says is not questioned in practice when it should be. [24] The author criticizes the use of metaphors characterizing people as information-processing machines or vice versa�e.g.

that people are "programmed" or "de-programmed" or "hard-wired", or "the computer believes ."; these metaphors are "reductionist". [25]A technopoly also trivialises significant cultural and religious symbols through their endless reproduction. [26] Postman echoes Jean Baudrillard in this view, who theorises that "technique as a medium quashes�the �message� of the product (its use value)", since a symbol�s "social finality gets lost in seriality".

[27] Criticism of Technopoly [ edit ] Technological determinism [ edit ]Postman's argument stems from the premise that the uses of a technology are determined by its characteristics � "its functions follow from its form". This draws on Marshall McLuhan's theory that "the medium is the message" because it controls the scale and form of human interaction. [28] Hence, Postman claims that once introduced, each technology "plays out its hand", [29] leaving its users to be, in Thoreau�s words, "tools of our tools".

[30]According to Tiles and Oberdiek, this pessimistic understanding of pervasive technology renders individuals "strangely impotent". [8] David Croteau and William Hoynes criticise such technologically deterministic arguments for underestimating the agency of a technology�s users.

[31] Russell Neuman suggesThis is the first part of my summary of the book � Technopoly: the Surrender of Culture to Technology�, by Neil Postman. Especially after reading this book, I feel forced to say (and insist on) that this is just my take on this book: it�s subjective and incomplete (parts that I found less interesting, agreed less with or I found less value in I cover less, or not cover at all).

That said, it�s not like I agree with everything in my summary, but I found that the featured parts were good food for thought.EDIT:�see parts two, three and four on this blog.The book has an introduction and 11 chapters.

This first part of the summary will cover the introduction and the first two chapters, �The judgement of Thamus� and �From Tools to Technocracy�. IntroductionThe main argument this book explores is not between humanists and scientists, but between technology and everybody else.

Most people believe that technology is a friend. It is a friend that asks for trust and obedience, which most give because its gifts are bountiful. The dark side it that it creates a culture without moral foundation, undermines certain mental processes and social relations that make human life worth living. Technology is both a friend and enemy. The book tries to explain when, how and why technology became a particularly dangerous enemy.

The judgement of ThamusSocrates story (p. 3,4). We can learn from it that it�s a mistake to think that any technological innovation has a one-sided effect: it�s always a blessing and a burden.Radical technologies create new definitions for old terms, and this happens without us being fully concious of it (e.g. telegraph changed �information�, TV changed �political debate�, �news� and �public opinion�).

It�s insidious and dangerous, different from the process of creating new terms. This is what Tamus tried to teach us: technology redefines all the words we live by, and it doesn�t pause to tell us. Or us to ask.Example of technologies that creates new conceptions of what is real: giving marks in school (first done in 1792). Hard to imagine a number/letter is a tool or technology, or that by using a technology to judge someone�s behaviour we�re doing something peculiar.

If a number can be given to the quality of thought, why not to mercy, love, hate, beauty, creativity, intelligence or sanity? Psychologists, sociologists and educators find it quite hard to work without numbers. We believe without numbers we can�t acquire or express authentic knowledge.

Not arguing it�s a stupid or dangerous idea, just peculiar (even more so that not so many people find it peculiar).

Saying that someone should be doing better work because has a IQ of 134, or that someone has 7.2 on a sensitivity scale, would have sounded like gibberish to Galileo, Shakespeare or Thomas Jefferson.Embedded in every tool there�s an ideological bias, a predisposition to construct the world like this rather than like that (example of clock in p.

14,15). There are �knowledge monopolies� created by important technologies: benefits and deficits not distributed equally (example in p. 9). But it�s not a well-planned conspiracy, as if the winners know well what�s won and lost. Such prejudices are not evident at first, hence one can�t conspire to be a winner.

Also, technological change is neither additive or subtractive, but ecological. If you remove caterpillars from a habitat, you don�t get the same without caterpillars, you get a different environment.What we need to consider about the computer is not efficiency as a teaching tool: we need to know in what ways it�s altering our conception of learning, and how, with TV, it undermines the old idea of school.

Need to know if technology changes our conception of reality, the relationship of the rich to the power, the idea of happiness itself. A preacher who confines himself to considering how a medium can increase his audience misses the significant question: in what sense new media alters what is meant by religion, church or even god?These changes are strange and dangerous, and there�s only a dull, even stupid, awareness of what it is. In part because it has no name. The book calls it Technopoly.

From tools to technocracyOne taxonomy of cultures based on their relation to technology: tool-using cultures, technocracies and technopolies. All types can be found on the planet, but the first is disappearing. Until 17th century, all cultures were tool-using, but with considerable variation on the tools available. The main characteristic is that their tools were largely invented for two things: solve a specific and urgent problem of physical life, or to serve the symbolic world of arts, politics, myth, ritual and religion.

Tools did not attack (or intended to) dignity or integrity of the culture. Culture actually directed the invention of the tools and limited their uses.To avoid oversimplification on the definition of tool-using cultures: the quantity of technology is not relevant in the definition; they may be ingenious and productive in solving problems of the physical environment; and they�re not impoverished technologically (may even be surprisingly sophisticated). The name tool-using derives from the relationship between tools and the belief system or ideology.

Tools are not intruders, they�re integrated into the culture. We may say tool-using cultures are theocratic or at least unified by some metaphysical theory. Such theory provides order and meaning to existence. It makes it hard for technics to subordinate people to its own needs.In technocracy, tools play a central role in the thought-world of the culture.

Everything must give way, to some degree, to their development. Tools are not integrated into the culture, they attack it. They bid to become the culture.Kepler played a role toward the conception of a technocracy: a clear separation of moral and intellectual values, one of the pillars of technocracy.

Bacon was the first technocracy man, but it took some time for others to follow: people came to believe that knowledge is power, humanity is capable of progressing, poverty is a great evil, and the life of an average person is as meaningful as any other. It�s not true that God died, but it lost much of its power and meaning, and with it the satisfactions of a culture in which moral and intellectual values were integrated.And this is the end of the first part of my summary.

I�ll post the second one soon, covering chapters �From Technocracy to Technopoly�, �The Improbable World� and �The Broken Defenses�. 3 repliesComments closed Trackbacks/ Pingbacks� Pingback from Book summary: Technopoly (II) |� Pingback from Book summary: Technopoly (III) |� Pingback from Book summary: Technopoly (IV) |� Book summary: Technopoly (II) �� � by:Larm 2011 � Search� AboutThis is Esteban Manchado Velazquez's personal blog.

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Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Vintage Books, 1992. (222 pages)Introduction�the argument is not between humanists and scientists but between technology and everybody else. (xii)First, technology is a friend. � Second, because of its lengthy, intimate, and inevitable relationship with culture, technology does not invite a close examination of its own consequences.

(xii)�the accusation can be made that the uncontrolled growth of technology destroys the vital sources of our humanity. It creates a culture without a moral foundation. It undermines certain mental processes and social relations that make human life worth living. Technology, in sum, is both friend and enemy. (xii) 1. The Judgment of ThamusPlato�s Phaedrus � The story, as Socrates tells it to his friend Phaedrus, unfolds in the following way: Thamus once entertained the god Theuth, who was the inventor of many things, including number, calculation, geometry, astronomy, and writing.

Theuth exhibited his inventions to King Thamus, claiming that they should be made widely known and available to Egyptians. Socrates continues:Thamus inquired into the use of each of them, and as Theuth went through them expressed approval or disapproval, according as he judged Theuth�s claims to be well or ill founded. It would take too long to go through all that Thamus is reported to have said for and against each of Theuth�s inventions. But when it came to writing, Theuth declared, �Here is an accomplishment, my lord the King, which will improve both the wisdom and the memory of the Egyptians.

I have discovered a sure receipt for memory and wisdom.� To this, Thamus replied, �Theuth, my paragon of inventors, the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it. So it is in this; you, who are the father of writing, have out of fondness for your off-spring attributed to it quite the opposite of its real function. Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their own internal resources.

What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.

And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society.�it is a mistake to suppose that any technological innovation has a one-sided effect. Every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and that. | Nothing could be more obvious, of course, especially to those who have given more than two minutes of thought to the matter. Nonetheless, we are currently surrounded by throngs of zealous Theuths, one-eyed prophets who see only what new technologies can do and are incapable of imagining what they will undo.

We might call such people Technophiles. (4-5)A bargain is struck in which technology giveth and technology taketh away. (5)�writing is not a neutral technology whose good or harm depends on the uses made of it. [Thamus] knows that the uses made of any technology are largely determined by the structure of the technology itself � that is, that its functions follow from its form. This is why Thamus is concerned not with what people will write; he is concerned that people will write.

(7)�once a technology is admitted, it plays out its hand; it does what it is designed to do. Our task is to understand what that design is � that is to say, when we admit a new technology to the culture, we must do so with our eyes wide open. (7)�radical technologies create new definitions of old terms, and�this process takes place without our being fully conscious of it.

(8)New things require new words. But new things also modify old words, words that have deep-rooted meanings. The telegraph and the penny press changed what we once meant by �information.� Television changes what we once meant by the terms �political debate,� �news,� and �public opinion.� The computer changes �information� once again.

Writing changed what we once meant by �truth� and �law�; printing changed them again, and now television and the computer change them once more. (8)�technology imperiously commandeers our most important terminology. It redefines �freedom,� �truth,� �intelligence,� �fact,� �wisdom,� �memory,� �history� � all the words we live by.

And it does not pause to tell us. And we do not pause to ask. (8-9)It is expected that the winners will encourage the losers to be enthusiastic about computer technology. (11)�in cultures that have a democratic ethos, relatively weak traditions, and a high receptivity to new technologies, everyone is inclined to be enthusiastic about technological change, believing that its benefits will eventually spread evenly among the entire population.

(11)�new technologies change what we mean by �knowing� and �truth�; they alter those deeply embedded habits of thought which give to a culture its sense of what the world is like � a sense of what is the natural order of things, of what is reasonable, of what is necessary, of what is inevitable, of what is real. (12)If a number can be given to the quality of a thought, then a number can be given to the qualities of mercy, love, hate, beauty, creativity, intelligence, even sanity itself.

. Our psychologists, sociologists, and educators find it quite impossible to do their work without numbers. They believe that without numbers they cannot acquire or express authentic knowledge. (13)� embedded in every tool is an ideological bias, a predisposition to construct the world as one thing rather than another, to value one thing over another, to amplify one sense or skill or attitude more loudly than another.

(31)�The medium is the message.� �Technology discloses man�s mode of dealing with nature,� and creates the �conditions of intercourse� by which we relate to each other. � language is not merely a vehicle of thought but also the driver.

(14)This is, in short, an ancient and persistent piece of wisdom, perhaps most simply expressed in the old adage that, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Without being too literal, we may extend the truism: To a man with a pencil, everything looks like a list. To a man with a camera, everything looks like an image. To a man with a computer, everything looks like data. And to a man with a grade sheet, everything looks like a number.

(14)� the clock is a means not merely of keeping track of the hours but also of synchronizing and controlling the actions of men. (14)In short, without the clock, capitalism would have been quite impossible. The paradox, the surprise, and the wonder are that the clock was invented by men who wanted to devote themselves more rigorously to God; it ended as the technology of greatest use to men who wished to devote themselves to the accumulation of money. In the eternal struggle between God and Mammon, the clock quite unpredictably favored the latter.

(15)Unforeseen consequences stand in the way of all those who think they see clearly the direction in which a new technology will take us. (15)Luther understood, as Gutenberg did not, that the mass-produced book, by placing the Word of God on every kitchen table, makes each Christian his own theologian � one might even say his own priest, or, better, from Luther�s point of view, his own pope. In the struggle between unity and diversity of religious belief, the press favored the latter, and we can assume that this possibility never occurred to Gutenberg.

(15)� new technologies compete with old ones � for time, for attention, for money, for prestige, but mostly for dominance of their world-view. (16)Children come to school having been deeply conditioned by the biasTechnopoly by Neil PostmanTECHNOPOLYThe Surrender of Culture to Technologyby Neil Postman, 1993Vintage Books, New YorkAs a cultural critic, professor of Media Ecology, and author of numerous books on the themes of education and technology, Neil Postman is well positioned to comment on the relation of technology to culture.

The relation, as he sees it, is one in which culture is subservient to and controlled by both invisible (I.Q. scores, statistics, polling technopoly book summary and visible (television, computers, automobiles) technologies. Technology, Postman admits, is a friend but mostly it is a "dangerous enemy" that "intrudes" into a culture "changing everything", while destroying "the vital sources of our humanity". Furthermore, technology is a difficult enemy with which to negotiate since it "does not invite a close examination of its own consequences" and even "eliminates alternatives to itself".The author subscribes to a pessimistic view of technological determinism and, as such, uses a critical and scolding tone to paint a dystopian picture of a culture with a blind, unfailing faith in science and technology yet without purpose, meaning or traditional beliefs."Progress without limits", "rights without responsibilities", "technology without cost" and a "moral center" replaced by "efficiency, interest and economic advance": this is Postman's view of the world gone wrong.

This is what he terms a "Technopoly"- the prime example of which is the United States.The key symbol of a Technopoly, the computer, "undermines the old idea of school" and defeats attempts at group learning, cooperation and social responsibility.

For the masses of people, the computer makes them "losers" because it confers power and knowledge on only a few. "Computer technology serves to strengthen Technopoly's hold" substituting technical solutions for human ones.As a solution to the problems created by the Technopoly, Postman proposes that we become "loving resistance fighter (s)" who retain "the narratives and symbols that once made the United States the hope of the world". Schools, he argues, should be the "principal instrument for correcting mistakes and addressing problems".

Thus, education is to lead the resistance against the Technopoly. Taking as its central theme "the ascent of humanity", the curriculum will help to restore a sense of meaning and purpose lost to the Technopoly. In this curriculum, "(.) all subjects are presented as a stage in humanity's historical development; in which the philosophies of science, of history, of language, of technology, and of religion are taught(.)(p.198) It is with these final solutions that the author "closes the book" on Technopoly.No doubt, Postman is well positioned to comment on technology, how we relate to it, how it changes us and the world we live in.

No doubt, we have a lot of learning to do about technology's impact and role, and we have to do it quickly to keep pace with the changes. At the same time, one wonders whether Postman helps or hinders our understanding of these issues or whether he is simply misusing his position as "expert" to mislead, to fabricate and to indulge in what amounts to fear-mongering.Criticisms of technology's impact on culture are not uncommon.

Many look with scepticism and concern at the increasing role technology plays in their lives. Postman's brand of criticism is unique however. Through his use of the term "Technopoly" to describe a collective state of mind possessed and obsessed with technique, technology, and tools, Postman looks at all that has gone wrong with the world and reifies it. Science, medicine, education, language, forms, tests, polls - everything seems to have a role to play in Postman's somber scenario.It is not surprizing with a conspiracy of such complexity and magnitude that the author was at a loss to provide viable solutions to the problem.

As an educator, I was initially shocked, then amused at his suggestion that we could somehow be rescued from this monster of Technopoly by changing the curriculum. If only it were so simple that we could improve education and the world by merely changing the content of learning!In spite of these shortcomings, Postman's description of the world as he sees it does force us to ask many important questions - questions about the role of technology and science, our relation to them, how they change us and how we change them.

And we can go beyond these questions and enquire about change itself and about how individuals, societies or cultures can control change.

Or perhaps we can adopt an ecological perspective - one which asks whether or not the term "adapt" should be substituted for "control". We must determine as well what is to be the role of technology in education and vice versa. Finally, we should enquire about the effects of reifying and of anthropomorphizing technology.

Ironically, technology is likely to be a useful tool in our search for answers to, information about and discussion of all these questions!TECHNOPOLY LINKS�Postmanby Nancy Kaplan� Review of Technopoly� Technolopoly review� Technological determinism�Media DeterminismTop of Page|Entrance to Site|Introduction|Technopoly|The End of Education|The Children's Machine Version Francaise|Things That Make us Smart| The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design| The Gutenberg Elegies| Being Digital|School's Out| Synthesis|This page was produced by Elizabeth MurphyFall, 1996. Neil Postman's focus: TechnopolyC ritiqueof our faith in material thingsTechnopoly arises from a desire to control at a distance.Neil Postman, Technopoly, The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 1993."What you can't see, can hurt you!"T he invisible technologies"p.

123."We must understand where our techniques come from & what they are goodfor."p. 143."I mean the worldwe live in is very nearly incomprehensible to most of us."p. 58.His argument."George Whistler� having become the chief engineer of the Western Railroad, developed a managerial system in 1839�, [that ] organized the railroad along hierarchical lines beginning with a central staff office, descending to regional managers and then local managers.

He employed to great effect the grammatocentric principle. [becoming] the foundations of modern systems management."Is the eclipse of technocracy in America over into technopoly a machine oriented or an organizational oriented schemes?pp.

140-141.Detailedfacts | People's stories| How did it happen? | Comments | Full critique | related ideasWhatis Neil Postman's thesis?F acts:First, as suggested by Galbraith, management, like the zero, statistics, IQ measurement, grading papers, or polling, functions as does any technology.

It is not made up of any mechanical parts."Postman, Technopoly, p. 141Mechanical meaning possessing "moving parts"[Doric Greek makhana ( Attic Greek m'khan?, from m'khos �contrivance�) having a structure.]Shown here: gears that shift the direction of rotary motion�screw gearingPostman's cornerstone personalities :Sylvanus Thayer ,The new (1814) relation of military organization to practical, corporate organization to promote industrial advancement,pp.

139-141.Frederick Winslow Taylor ,Scientific Management author and advocate of machine-like labor.S eealso PursellPaceyOthersT he New Industrial StateMachinery alone -even automated, or mechanical implements- cannot create a culture, but organizing people to make, use, and disperse that machinery based originally on clocks, magnetism and transportation created the basis for the New Industrial State, with corresponding mixed economies, top-down management, and the control of education by specialists needed by corporations to prosper.It was the set of assumptions that sprang from the mechanization of key inventions, used throughout society and which influenced how people thought about the world.Theory or theories (conceptsthat rationally support each other) can have influence equalat times to tools:Francis Bacon's empiricism used to challengethe four idols that enslave the human mind, psychologically crippling peopleto believe in superstitions based on perceptual errors, ethnic prejudice,rhetorical skill, or appearances.Adam Smith'sconcept of wealth, commerceand monopoly capitalism.

Specialization and exchange of goods is the sourceof money and influence that should be controlled to alleviate poverty andoppression.Richard Arkwright's machineryinventor andthe transformation of textile production throughthe use of factorydiscipline.Media (Communication's)Revolution, from 1830-1890, is an example of just one elementin the material triumph.Technopoly is defined as "the submission of all forms ofcultural life to the sovereignty of technique and technology."Certain inventions are more central or key than other tools and these tool complexes converge, such that the full influence of their combinedimpacts is greater than the mere sum of their respective parts.� Railroads being steam engines, iron, coal, timber, telegraph,joint stock companies, machine shops and marketing.

A development of railroads' impacts is a Pacey focus.� Media being print, voice, pictures, means of exchanging information,display techniques & advertising.� Electrical generating being the use of dynamos, transformers,batteries, generators, wires, switching devices and sources of fuels suchas water, coal, oil, natural gas, wind, fissionable material, or geothermalpower.� Computers, the A RPANET and the world wide web.

This story after Pursell, is a key focus of Kaku.How did the process of culture surrendering to technologyoccur?Postman's argument includes these several elements which aredistinctly important to his belief about how culturesurrendered to technological change in the 1800s:a new value emerged that "if something could be made,it should be made.a powerful "thought world" or world of ideas emergedto challenge customary rules and traditional beliefs Technocracy, or the rule of the machines, he says "did notentirely destroy the traditions of the social and symbolic worlds."The eclipse of religion, craft, custom, regional pride andhereditary aristocracy as means of control over new technology led to an absenceof control.The appeal to mechanistic, material and machine qualities to justify behavior, ethics and education led to a redefinition of morals.� In summary, the rule of machinery was replaced by a convergenceof tool complexes as the sole source of meaning, value and identity.� Technopoly is the replacement of judgment, measure and balance by machine dictated requirements rather than humane or human scaled demands.Postman, Technopoly,pp.

40-55.Two hero's storiesRichard Arkwright, hairdresserand barber was also an inventor. "One thinks of that other hairdresser.Richard Arkwright, whose eighteenth-century water frame was a key inventionin the shift from hand to power spinning in the transformation of the textileindustry."Pursell, p.

45.Thomas Alva Edison, was a telegraph key operator for a Midwesternrailway, as a young man. Early in his career, when he fell asleep at the telegraphkey, two trains collided, because he had failed to send the required messageto the next control point on the main line.This may be an example of Murphy's Law: "when anythingtechnical involving people can go wrong, it will go wrong."Therole of themes and storiesPostman's views of computerstectonic | socio tecnic | ideo tecnichuman trappings | interconnected powersThe Ideology of Machines"This is not to say that the computer is a blot on the symbolic landscape."".it has usurped powers and enforced mind-sets that a fully attentive culture may have wished to deny it."p.

107.Tectonic aspectsBabbage, 1833 a machine "controlled by punch cards""adapted from devices French weavers used to control thread sequences in their looms.""The computer as we know today had to await a variety of further discoveries and inventions including the telegraph, the telephone, and the application of Boolean algebra to relay-based circuitry, resulting in Claude Shannon's creation of digital logic circuitry." (architectonic)p. 109."the word 'computer'. . refers to some version of the machine invented by John von Neuman in the 1940s.""the power of von Neuman's machine."p.

110."how easy it was to meet [Alan] Turing's test for intelligence."p. 110."The assumption that whatever a computer can do, it should do, and the effects of computer technology on the way people construe the world�"The ideo-tecnic:"the computer is in its function as a new kind of book.""the dominant metaphor of our age; it defines our age by suggesting a new relationship to information, to work, to power, and to nature itself."p.

111.The computer redefines humans as 'information processors' and nature itself as information to be processed."p. 111."we are machines�thinking machines""John McCarthy, the inventor of the term 'artificial intelligence.' McCarthy claims that 'even machines as simple as thermostats can be said to have beliefs. . ."".it has redefined the meaning of the world 'belief'.The remark implies that simulating an idea is synonymous with duplicating the idea.""a case of a metaphor gone mad."p.

112."the 'machine as human' metaphor""November 4, 1988,' Arpanet network became sluggish "attached itself to other programs" called " a virus""As it happened, the intruder wa a self-contained program explicitly designed to disable computers, which is called a 'worm.' BuSearch Our Catalog Search Terms Search Type Advanced Enter your search terms in the boxabove, then click "Find" to begin your search.!!To protect your privacy, please remember to log out when you are finished.

The Log Out button is at the top of the page. !! SUMMARYIn this witty, often terrifying work of cultural criticism, the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death chronicles our transformation into a Technopoly: a society that no longer merely uses technology as a support system but instead is shaped by it-with radical consequences for the meanings of politics, art, education, intelligence, and truth.Review byChoice ReviewPostman presents a view found in literature from Siegfried Giedion's Mechanization Takes Command (1948) through the writings of Jacques Ellul.

One might trace back to Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee. . (1889). That technology and the rest of culture are integrated has been recognized for decades. Postman's proposition is that technology has provided an informational overload, making the recipient almost a voyeur and unable to discriminate among data. The apotheosis of indiscriminate accumulation is the game of Trivial Pursuit.

The result, he says, is the unquestioning acceptance of technological offerings to the point that technology "takes command." To which observation he adds the deification of "science" (and technology), trivialization of symbols, and loss of morals and values. People, through growing dependence on technology, have lost autonomy, replacing inner-directedness with other- (techno-) directedness. The author balances his criticisms with recommendations: study history of technology to understand its underlying assumptions and study comparative religion to gain a view of morals and values that are being overridden or ignored in the present world.

For a literate general readership. F. Spier; University of MissouriDSColumbia Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.Review byBooklist Review/*STARRED REVIEW*/ A summary masterwork by one of our best social critics, though not a summary of his particular themes so much as of themes that have been in the air for at least a half-century.

To wit: Every technological change alters the culture that adopts it. The contemporary predicament is that we are controlled by rather than control our technologies.

Technology induces us to see ourselves as expressions of it, as in our speaking of the brain as a bunch of "hard-wiring" that can be "programmed," from which we "retrieve data," etc. Our technologized, statistics-mad social sciences are a sham, neither scientific nor socially relevant. Our infatuation with technologically enabled material progress has led us to trivialize our religious, philosophical, and artistic heritages.

These are arguments familiar at least since the 1950s, when the likes of Paul Goodman-whose maxim, "technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science," Postman uses as this book's epigraph-voiced them.

What Postman has done that is distinctive is to characterize the cumulated effects those arguments critique as a cultural gestalt he dubs "Technopoly" and to state them all more elegantly, wittily, and aptly than they've ever been stated.

And finally, in the manner of Goodman, who felt obliged to append practical proposals to his carpings, Postman suggests what to do to ameliorate the damage technologized society has done. He suggests we become "loving resistance fighters" who keep "epistemological and psychic distance from any technology" and that we place history-not dates and names and events, but the development of knowledge in all areas-at the center of education.

(Reviewed Dec. 1, 1991)0394582721Ray Olson From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.Review byPublisher's Weekly ReviewMixing provocative insights and oft-heard criticism, cultural critic Postman ( Conscientious Objections ) defines the U.S. as an emerging ``technopoly,'' a society in which machines and technology are deified to a near-totalitarian degree.

Technopoly elevates experts to ``priestly'' status, whether in economics or in child-rearing; it maintains a bureaucracy to control the flow of information; it likens human beings to computers in reductionist fashion, misapplies statistics in IQ tests and public opinion polls, and uses advertising to ``devour the psyches of consumers'' through symbolic manipulation.

In medicine, technopoly is evident in doctors who aggressively overuse machines and X-rays. Postman's arguments are sometimes strained (the Bible is an ``information control mechanism'') and he offers almost no solutions, yet his erudite jeremiad presents a stark, often terrifying vision of a soulless society beholden to machines. He is most original when discussing the social scientist as one who constructs stories using archetypes and metaphors.

BOMC alternate; QPB selection. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reservedReview byLibrary Journal ReviewPostman continues his plea to analyze physical culture in our society which he discussed in earlier books such as Amusing Ourselves to Death (Viking, 1985).

He claims that our social institutions have, in effect, become dominated by the technologies that permeate our society. People, including researchers in science and social science, have allowed the use of technology to substitute for their own thinking. Earlier societies in history were tool-using but retained a sense of wholeness and a center of morality that is missing from our society. Postman asserts that there is a technological determinism pervading America that can be restrained, for example, by giving courses in the history and philosophy of technology and in comparative religion.

However, his evidence for this technopoly book summary is narrowly selected, and his discussion is often anecdotal. An optional purchase.- Christopher Jocius, Illinois Mathematics & Science Acad., Aurora (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.

No redistribution permitted.AUTHOR NOTESBorn in Brooklyn, New York, and educated at the State University of New York and Columbia University, Neil Postman is a communications theorist, educator, and writer who has been deeply involved with the issue of the impact of the media and advanced communications technology on American culture.

In his many books, Postman has strongly opposed the idea that technology will "save" humanity. In fact, he has focused on the negative ways in which television and computers alter social behavior. In his book Technopoly, Postman argues that the uncontrolled growth of technology destroys humanity by creating a culture with no moral structure. Thus, technology can be a dangerous enemy as well as a good friend. Postman, who is married and has three children, currently is a professor of media ecology at New York University and editor of Et Cetera, the journal of general semantics.

In addition to his books, he has contributed to various magazines and periodicals, including Atlantic and The Nation. He has also appeared on the television program Sunrise Semester.

Postman is the holder of the Christian Lindback Award for Excellence in Teaching from New YorkUniversity. Similar Items� Technopoloy : the surrender of culture to technology / By: Postman, Neil. Published: (1992)� Technology and choice : readings from Technology and culture /Published: (1991)� The engines of our ingenuity : an engineer looks at technology and culture / By: Lienhard, John H., 1930- Published: (2000)� Technological utopianism in American culture / By: Segal, Howard Published: (1985)� Human-built world : how to think about technology and culture / By: Hughes, Thomas Parke.

Published: (2004)

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