Friday, February 18, 2011

Technopoly and Media Saturation

Every day, we are assaulted by a torrent of technology and media.  No matter where we go, we see advertisements on billboards and screens.  Within our own homes, we invite this flood in with our televisions and computers.  Neil Postman and Todd Gitlin both take the attitude that this media and technology is taking over our lives.  While it may be true that technology and the media have become major parts of everyday life, it is not true that they are completely taking over. 
                Neil Postman, in his book, Technopoly, takes an extreme attitude about the inundation of technology.  Throughout time, man has created tools and new technologies to help make life easier.  Every technology created has been to help the society deal with some challenge, from the issue of providing enough food for a village or tribe to enhancing business communications.  There has been a steady evolution of the tools humans create since our existence, and as a new technology becomes old, it becomes as much a part of our society as we are.  We see it less and less as technology, and more and more as an appliance.  Postman argues that new technology is not, in itself, a problem, but that we are become too dependent on it.  The culture of old is giving way to the technology, and we are losing these cultures we have spent so long cultivating (1992).
                Todd Gitlin, on the other hand, argues about media itself.  New technology has given way to new ways media can invade our lives.  Like Postman discussed the history of technology, Gitlin gives an evolution of media.  As a capitalist society developed, companies advertised.  Individuals advertised.  There came a time when you couldn’t take a walk on the street without seeing posters or hearing vendors trying to attract customers.  It wasn’t long before the concept of branding became common place.  Now, we see ads everywhere.  Many have become walking advertisements for the brands they like, paying extra money for the name.  The image given by the brand name has become everything (2002).
                It is true that technology and media have become ever present in our society.  Many can’t wait until the new computer or cell phone comes out on the market.  We search the internet, watch televisions, and comb magazines for new ads from our favorite brands or stores.  At work, I see women carrying expensive brand name bags, like Coach, wanting to give this image of being successful, but at the same time, I hear them complain about not being able to pay off bills or buy their children Christmas presents.  In student teaching, I heard the seventh graders talking about what stores they went to, and saw the labels on their clothes.  The labels helped create their identities as being unique, but still part of a larger group.  Their branding put them in a certain sub-culture within the school.
                Even in this class, we are dependent on technology.  We use the internet to do research, to communicate with one another, to assess our learning, and to turn in our assignments.  At work, I use email and texting to communicate with students who do not come to class.  I have even set up a blog where I post what we do in class and what the homework assignments are (  My students are using the internet to do research for their final research papers, and all our essays and papers are typed.
                However, many of my students don’t have computers.  Their main mode of communication with people is their cell phone, and many of them need to have it on all the time.  They are dependent on that technology because of ailing parents and unreliable child care providers.  The technology of the cell phone is allowing them to pursue an education they never thought possible while keeping up with their outside responsibilities.
                Though the technology has helped me keep in touch with people, I do not have to have the technology everywhere with me as Postman indicates of society.  The technology of today has become as commonplace as the technologies of old.  We have incorporated them into our everyday lives, but it is not taking the place of culture.  Society itself evolves over time, and as it evolves, it takes the new things to make it its own.  We are not losing culture, we are creating a new culture.  We use the technology to help enhance our world.  We use it to learn about others, to gain insight into the world, to help preserve the world’s traditions.  I have used the internet to learn about Japanese culture, and to see arts from around the world.  My friends and I share news from all over the world, and we learn about each other’s heritage.
                In conclusion, though Postman and Gitlin have created this image that the media and technology are destroying our cultures, it may not be as absolute as they imagine.  There are many people who can live without technologies others take for granted, and there are those that use the technologies to help further their own cultures, interests, and educations.


Gitlin, T. (2002). Media unlimited: How the torrent of images and sounds overwhelms our lives. New York: Henry Hold and Company, LLC.
Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books.

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