26 June 2011


Not since 2002, when I read Teaching as a Subversive Activity, have I sat down to read another book be Neil Postman. I can't explain such neglect on my part. But, as with Illich I want the people in my network to explain why we are not referring to Postman more? His 1992 book, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology for example. I know Shirky and Wesch both mention Postman by name at least, and maybe i just miss other references. Certainly i seem to be more impressionable, but it seems to me that the points made in this book are very important to our discourse, and missing.

I'm sitting in the sun at South Bank Brisbane, waiting to join the Wikipedia Brisbane meetup. I've just finished the introduction to Technopoly...

Function follows form. P7

New things change old words. P8

Undeserved authority. P9

Private matters made known to powerful institutions. P10

Technologies change the way we think and feel. Ideologically. P12

On assigning marks for student work as a strange conception and Techno implementation. P13

The unforeseen consequences. The clock for God, but serving Mammon. P15

On computers in classrooms. The balance between orality and text is tipping to text. P17

Technology as ecological. P18


kate said...

"The clock for god but serving Mammon?"

Lol the writer obviously thought why not cut straight to the chase in relation to efficiently learn to fulfill a function.

Very interesting Leigh the topics seem right on target.

Will have to check it out!

Brian said...

You'll get to this in Technopoly soon, if you haven't already:

"For four hundred years, school teachers have been part of the knowledge monopoly created by printing, and they are now witnessing the breakup of that monopoly. It appears as if they can do little to prevent that breakup, but surely there is Something perverse about school teachers' being enthusiastic about what is happening. Such enthusiasm always calls to my mind an image of some turn-of-the-century blacksmith who not only sings the praises of the automobile but also believes that his business will be enhanced by it. We know now that his business was not enhanced by it; it was rendered obsolete by it, as perhaps the clearheaded blacksmiths knew. What could they have done? Weep, if nothing else..."

Postman has been on the reading list of a Text Technologies course (that I co-teach) for years. The students (mostly working teachers, getting a Masters in Ed Tech) almost always hate his stuff for some reason.

Amusing Ourselves to Death is also a recommended read... It prompted this rant a few years ago.

Depressing as hell, but still I say... enjoy!

Leigh Blackall said...

Text Technologies is the course name? Was that name arrived at based on Postman's taxonomies? I think it's a great name.. gets the thinking going straight away.

I'm still thinking about his Tool-Using, Technocracy, and Technopoly taxonomy. He explains well how each over lap each other in the order of hundreds of years.. but I couldn't fit it into the devastation of colonialism. Especially that which took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. The colonizers where still, by Postman's definition Tool-Using moving toward Technocracies, but the colonized were also Tool-Using. In the case of Australia, I don't think it was as simple as one tribe being aggressive and stronger. It was that one's use of tools overwhelmed the other's use and their tools.. it doesn't fit.

Still, its a useful simplification for thinking about the issues surrounding technology for sore.

Off to read your 2008 rant. Thanks for the link.

simonfj said...

An old quote from Bertie Russell; "The changes in the meaning of words must necessarily change more slowly than the changes the words describe". I see "open" is flavour of the month.

I'm a bit surprised by Brian's comment. You can trace the abolition of the monopoly as a reasonable steady curve; the hiccups being at times of new media production devices. Conversations going on around early 1800's, when steam powered printing presses became fashionable, pretty much mirror the current media/technophobe fracas. Moodle is not "social media", it's an "e-learning tool"!

I'm not even sure about blacksmith analogy. I suppose it depends on what you consider a "school" & "teacher" to mean.
I found quite a few good self appointed teachers. e.g. http://chronicle.com/article/College-20-A-Self-Appoint/65793/

The problem now is in defining (the routines and architecture of) institutions called 'school', and the 'governance' which indulges them.