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Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology [Paperback]

Neil Postman
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 31 1993 Vintage
In 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.

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Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology + Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
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From Amazon

Neil Postman is one of the most level-headed analysts of education, media, and technology, and in this book he spells out the increasing dependence upon technology, numerical quantification, and misappropriation of "Scientism" to all human affairs. No simple technophobe, Postman argues insightfully and writes with a stylistic flair, profound sense of humor, and love of language increasingly rare in our hastily scribbled e-mail-saturated world.

From Publishers Weekly

Mixing provocative insights and cliched criticisms, Postman defines the U.S. as a society in which technology is deified to a near-totalitarian degree.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On Target June 25 2003
Marshall McLuhan observed the medium is the message. Postman's argument is along similar lines as suggested in the subtitle of this book, "the surrender of culture to technology." He begins with a legend and goes into a question about how we learn in our culture. The introductory section is followed in the next chapter by a look at the tools that paved the way for industrialization and later the information age. In the third chapter, Postman makes a poignant observation, in discussing the assumptions made by Frederick W. Taylor in his classic book on scientific management i.e., "human judgment cannot be trusted, because it is plagued by laxity, ambiguity, and unneccesary complexity; that subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking..." (p. 51).
His lucid examination of ideas, inventions, and public adaption continues. In the fourth chapter the quote that stood out most for me was one from H. L. Mencken who said "there is no idea so stupid that you can't find a professor who will believe it" (p. 57). I've been in academe long enough to verify that that observation remains the same now as when it was first written.
Anyone who has ever been the victim of the fill-in-the-blank mentality of bureaucratic thinking can appreciate Postman's comment that "the invention of the standaradized form--a staple of bureaucracy--allows for the 'destruction' of every nuance and detail of a situation" (p. 84). To make his point even stronger, he goes on to define a bureaucrat as "little else than a glorified counter" (p. 86).
Postman never fails to leave his readers with a perspective they didn't have before picking up one of his books. Read this one and learn a little more about how technology is shaping your perceptions often without your awareness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a Love-Hate relationship Sept. 4 2002
I love technology. I tell you this, even though it must be obvious to you considering where these words are appearing. I love technology, but I'm not blind to its problems. To those who say technology has no faults, I ask you when was the last time your computer crashed or whatever happened to that grand notion of a "paperless office"? Technology is something between Pandora's box and Prometheus' gift; I would not want to live without it because I've read history, but I can also imagine an even better world.
Neil Postman may or may not love technology, but he certainly knows its failings. Postman is the author of several books on the interplay between American culture and technology, and his most recent, Technopoly, is in some ways a culmination of his previous efforts. Postman is an educator who is distressed by the state of American education. Instead of simply decrying the fact that schools are changing and moaning for a return to the "good ol' days," Postman took the time to understand the nature of the beast, dissect it, and present his conservation strategy. As he states, his idea of getting "back to the basics" is not quite the same as that typically bandied about by politicians and policy makers.
First, the argument. Postman describes what he calls the three stages of how a culture deals with technology: 1) tool-using, 2) technocracy, 3) technopoly. In a tool-using culture, technical improvements are limited to the uses at hand. This differs from the technocracy, where the tools "play a central role in the thought world of the culture." In the technopoly, tools become the culture. Astute readers may sense a possible linkage here with Alvin Toffler's three waves of culture detailed in The Third Wave.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dated but very relevant, sobering Aug. 7 2002
Cultural critic Neil Postman goes after what he calls technolopy which is essentially a "self-justifying, self-perpetuating system wherein technology of every kind is cheerfully granted
sovereingty over social institutions and national life."
Postman is not by any means an luddite but he wants us to be aware of how technology has shaped our society,and epistemology. Often not for the better in many respects.
We live in a society that does not use machines but is more and more used by them. It shapes our world view. Postman attempts to trace it's effect on us from the beginning. Overall he does a fine a job. Although a easy read many of the topics require closer scrutiny and thinking. Which is good, he wants you to think about whats happening not just accept what he has to say.
In one chapter he roasts the medical industry's infatuation with new technology while the doctors neglect their patients. Patients invariably are reduced to slabs of meat on a assembly line. He makes the salient point that information is not understanding, which is usually ignored by most promoters of technopoly.
Another chapter deals with 'scientism' which is science distorted into a intolerant fundamentalist belief system and its effects on our society. This chapter is his most humorous as he disects some the masters of the obvious(Dilbert like scientists who think they have discovered something profound but what most people on the street already know)Like people are afraid of death and that open minded people tend to be open minded. That's right Ph.d's have done studies to prove these notions! Perhaps a better title for this chapter would have been "the marching morons of science."
The last chapter deals on how to resist technology in our daily lives.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Insightful on technology in the world
This book is well written, and I thoroughly enjoyed gaining a different perspective on how to view the world.
Published on March 12 2010 by Benjamin Shideler
1.0 out of 5 stars Good Riddance (He is dead)
Neo-Luddite and misoneist Neil Postman lived in terror of the future because he could not contribute to it. Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written, poorly argued and self contradictory
Having read several of Postman's books I find this to be the one of his most poorly argued. The same issues are presented as in his better books ("Amusing Ourselves... Read more
Published on Dec 18 2002 by ...Bill
3.0 out of 5 stars What would Postman say on this subject today?
Postman discusses "technopoly", as technology's totalitarian grip on our culture. His arguments are sensical if not all convincing, and in buying technology's ills he tends to... Read more
Published on Aug. 6 2002 by Eric R James
3.0 out of 5 stars Sorry people nothing to see here!
Technopoly is very disappointing. I read Amusing Ourselves to Death and immediately loving it, I ordered everything else I could find by Neil Postman. Read more
Published on April 25 2002 by Kathleen A Pasquina
5.0 out of 5 stars Dated material, but a revealing look at tech nonetheless
I first picked this book up in high school more than 10 years ago. More recently, as a Ph.D. candidate in engineering, I gave it another read. Read more
Published on April 3 2002 by Keto
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for anyone involved with technology
Postman argues that as the development of technology has progressed, our society has lost the ambiguities and subtleties--the "shades of grey" that make us human. Read more
Published on Nov. 6 2001 by M. Jenn
1.0 out of 5 stars Foolishness from academia
Information can be lethal and so can lack of information be lethal ... The idea that computers or media or too much information will make people less human or end childhood is just... Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2001 by Jerry Gunning
5.0 out of 5 stars An Analyst's Perspective
Neil Postman, who was the head of the New York University Department of Communication at the time Technopoly was written, had been teaching for 30 years. Read more
Published on July 25 2001 by William Gawthrop
5.0 out of 5 stars A real eye opener
What is going on with the world to day? If you've ever asked this question this books for you. It not only explains the theories behind the present trends, but forces us to look at... Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2001 by Joel Peck
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