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Neil Postmans Amusing Ourselves to Death Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business was published in 1985 Postman goes to great detail in his book about the development of public discourse verbal and written communication over the centuries He explains how the development and evolution of communication over mankinds history has changed at critical points These critical points include the development of the alphabet the printing press invention the progress of the telegraph and the creation of the television Postman argues that American society in particular is in grave danger due to its unending reliance on television The theme that flows from his work is that the oral and printed methods of communication tend to be held in higher prestige because they take more brain power to learn and perfect If a person wants to learn in an oral or printed communication based culture he or she must learn the language memorize customs learn to read write etc Postman even goes so far as to say that print communication controls the physical body as well - that ones body must remain at least semi-mobile in order to pay attention to the meaning of the words In chapter four Postman details how the development and success of the printed word in Western civilization created what he calls The Typographic Mind a mind set where a person from the 17th 18th or 19th centuries could endure and pay attention to lengthy written volumes or lengthy speeches Postman cites the 1858 US Presidential debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas One debate lasted three hours while another in 1854 went seven The point that Postman makes is that with mass electronic communication in the 20th century American attention spans could never last even a fraction of that amount of time Postmans idea matches the trend of current political debates on television The entire debate itself lasts only an hour at most including commercial breaks Candidates are
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