|AP English Language and Composition
Amusing Ourselves to Death – Guiding Questions
Due: (A Day) October 3, 2011 & (B Day) October 4, 2011
Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion Questions
Students must answer 6 questions for each chapter; students must answer all of the questions for the chapters that have fewer than 6 questions. Students must create 6 questions that are related to the assumptions and to the reading in chapter 11 The Huxleyan Warning.
The following discussion questions relate directly to Postman’s text. Make assertions, analysis, interpretations related to the text – with the claims that you present rely on support from the text, include page numbers and quotes – short quotes.
Chapter 1 Discussion Questions
The Medium Is The Metaphor
1. It is suggested that all public discourse takes the form of entertainment? Agree/Disagree explain.
2. What is "form"? How it the term used here?
3. Does message form regulate or dictate message form or content?
4. How does the use of technology to move decontextualized information over vast spaces at incredible speed influence the chances of creating shared understanding?
5. Why can it be argued that the "news of the day" is a symbolic construction?
6. Speech defines what human means. Agree/Disagree explain.
7. What is the relationship between language, thinking/perception, and action/communication?
8. How does the medium of communication which dominates a particular age influence how we think, how we communicate, and thus, influence our culture?
8. What did Marshall McCluhan mean when he said "the medium is the message?
9. How do technological mediums of communication move us father from reality?
10. What is meant when it is said that "the media create a second-hand reality"?
11. What is a metaphor?
12. What is your metaphor for intimate-romantic relationships?
13. How does the metaphor we use to talk about relationships influence how we think and communicate in relationships?
14. What are "media-metaphors"? What does it mean to say we no longer live in the age of typography or print but in the age of television or in the age of computers?
15. What does it mean to suggest that our "our metaphors", our media create the content of our culture"?
16. Postman argues we are amusing ourselves to death? What is dying?
Chapter 2 Discussion Questions
Media As Epistemology
1. What is epistemology?
2. The content of much of our public discourse has become "dangerous nonsense". Agree/Disagree – explain.
3. Does the nature of the medium through which we acquire information about the world influence our view of reality, our definition of the situation, what we see to be "the truth"?
4. What is resonance? What use does Postman make of the concept?
5. What does Postman mean when he says "every medium of communication has resonance?
6. How does the dominant media prevailing in a particular culture influence how that culture defines intelligence?
7. What is the relationship between a medium, the structure or public of discourse, definition of intelligence, and the substance and content of messages?
8. What is public discourse?
9. In discussing the transition from a print to television based epistemology Postman uses the river as an analogy. How would you explain his use of this analogy?
10. What are the upside and downsides of a television-based and/or print-based epistemology?
Chapter 3 & Chapter 4 Discussion Questions
Typographic Mind & Typographic America
1. What are some of the factors which accounted for print being a pervasive and dominant medium of communication in seventeenth and eighteenth century America?
2. How did the form of discourse dominant during colonial American influence the content of discourse? Why did the domination of print tend to encourage "rationality"?
3. In the age of print why did public discourse tend to be characterized by a coherent and orderly arrangement of facts and ideas?
4. What cognitive or intellectual capacities or skills are required of print which may not be required of a visual medium of communication such as film or television?
Chapter 5 Discussion Questions
The Peek-A-Boo World
1. What two key developments ushered in the age of mass communication?
2. What were the upside and downsides of the telegraph?
3. How and in what way did the telegraph alter the prevailing definition of information?
4. How and in what way did the telegraphy alter the information-action ratio?
5. What is meant when it is suggested that the telegraph "dignified irrelevance" and "amplified impotence".
6. How did the telegraph begin to alter the quantity of information available, the quality of information, and the level or degree to which information was contextualized?
7. How did the electronic dissemination of information begin to alter the "the information-action ratio".
8. What does it mean to say that information is contextualized or decontextualized?
9. What is the primary difference between the linguistic (verbal) and visual depiction of reality?
10. How does reliance on words as a means for constructing, testing, and understanding reality differ from the use of photographs?
11. Why do we live in a "peak-a-boo" world?
12. How is our understanding or the news, politics, education, sports shaped or influenced by the biases of television?
13. Is television's bias toward the entertainment function of communication reflected in our major institutions i.e. education, politics, news, sports, family?
Chapter 6 Discussion Questions
The Age of Show Business
1. What is television? What kind of conversations does it permit? What are the intellectual tendencies it encourages? What sort of culture does it produce?
2. What is the difference between a technology and a medium?
3. What is the dominant goal of television?
4. How does an "entertainment frame" influence the presentation and content of "the news"?
5. What does Postman mean when he suggests that "it is not merely that on television entertainment is the metaphor for all discourse, it is that off the screen the same metaphor prevails?"
6. How has the ideology of entertainment influenced public discourse in the areas of education, religion, and politics?
Chapter 7 Discussion Questions
"Now This ..."
1. What is "now this" world view?
2. What does it mean to say that television news is de-contextualized?
3. How does an audiences impression of the person presenting the news Influence their impression of the news?
4. It is suggested that "on television credibility replaces reality as the decisive test-of truth-telling". What does that mean?
5. What is meant by the credibility of a news presenter?
6. You are the producer of a television news show how would you manage the form and content of the news in order to attract and keep viewers, in order to foster understanding, reflection and insight?
7. It is suggested that television news shows entertain but they do not inform, what does it mean to be "informed"?
8. What is the relationship between understanding and contradiction, between context and contraction, between television and context, and therefore, between understanding and television?
9. In what way does the form of television influence the form and content of other mediums of communication such as newspapers, magazines, and public discourse on radio?
10. What is an information environment called "trivial pursuit" and how does television news contribute to this environment?
11. Americans may be increasingly relying on newsmagazines and mini-series for their current and historical information about the world. In defending the historical inaccuracies in a mini-series a writer remarked "it is better for audiences to learn something that is untrue, if it is entertaining, than not to learn anything at all." Agree/Disagree explain.
Chapter 8 Discussion Questions
Shuffle Off to Bethlehem
1. Television favors moods of conciliation and is at its' best when substance of any kind is muted. Agree/Disagree, explain.
2. What elements of traditional religion are lost when we "shuffle off to Bethlehem"?
3. Who is the star of televised religious-oriented entertainment?
4. How does changing the form of discourse/medium of discourse change the meaning of the message?
5. Is there a difference comforting one in person or sending a greeting card, telling a person you love them or sending flowers, learning from a teacher or learning from a micro-computer?
6. How does moving from the pulpit to the "tube" influence the meaning, texture, and value of religion?
7. If you change the channel by which a message is delivered do you change the meaning of the message?
8. Does changing the context in which a message is communicated change the way in which the message is interpreted and given meaning?
9. Calling a "place" a "place of worship" makes it a "place of worship"? Agree/Disagree
10. What are the criteria Postman offers which are required to have a sacred experience? Do most people understand the symbolic meaning of the spectacle in their form or worship?
11. Is there a difference between "entertainment" and "enchantment"?
12. Televised religion is blasphemous. Agree/Disagree, explain.
13. The danger is not that religion has become the content of television shows but that television shows may become the content of religion.
14. "You can get your share of the audience only by offering them something they want." Should our news, our educators, our politicians, and our spiritual leaders follow this directive? What happens to a
culture when it gets only what it wants? Should teachers furnish what they think students need or only what students want?
Chapter 9 Discussion Questions
Reach Out & Elect Someone
1. If politics is like show business what function of communication becomes elevated to central importance?
2. Why can it be argued that the fundamental metaphor for political discourse is the television commercial?
3. Can one in engage in rational discourse using visual imagery?
4. Why is it difficult to evaluate the truth or falsity of a McDonald's commercial?
5. On what basis do most television commercials invite you to make product decisions?
6. "What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right with the product but what is wrong with the buyer." What does that mean?
7. What are the limitations of the television commercial as a form for carrying political discourse?
8. What assumptions about the nature of communication are implicitly embedded in the form of the television commercial?
9. Why can it be said that many commercials adopt form of the parable or "pseudo-parable"
10. "On television the politician does not so much offer an image of himself, as an image of the audience, television commercials create for viewers a comprehensive and compelling images of themselves." What does that mean?
11. Why are television commercials and image politics a form of therapy?
12. When political discourse comes in the form of the commercial it tends to be ahistorical. What does that mean?
Chapter 10 Discussion Questions
Teaching as an Amusing Activity
1. How is the orientation to learning promoted by the traditional classroom similar to and different from that promoted by television?
2. What is collateral learning?
3. How does an educational system based on the visual image similar and different from a educational system based on the printed word?
4. Is it possible for television to be called a curriculum?
5. If television does embrace a philosophy of education what are the assumptions on which this philosophy are based?
6. Why is it argued that television is an educational methodology that discourages exposition?
7. To what extent is the content of elementary and secondary school curriculum being influenced by television?
8. To what extent are methods employed in elementary and secondary school curriculum being influenced by television?
9. Does television carry its cognitive biases and social effects into the classroom?
10. Can the nature of television influence how we learn, how does Postman define competent instruction?
Chapter 11 Fundamental Assumptions
The Huxleyan Warning
Students must create 6 discussion questions that are related to the following fundamental assumptions.
1. Television now controls the flow of public discourse in our country.
2. In the Age of Television our information environment is completely different from colonial America.
3. Television presents information in a form which renders it simplistic, non-substantive, non-historical, and non-contextual.
4. In our culture we are never denied the opportunity to amuse ourselves. The television screen always wants you to remember that the imagery is always available for your amusement and pleasure.
5. Cultural life is slowly being redefined as a perpetual round of entertainment.
6. Technology has both benefits and costs for a culture.
7. New technology has the capacity to alter a culture's news, politics, social relations, commerce,, and religion
8. Television serves us quite useful when providing pure entertainment.
9. It is a threat to culture when it turns serious modes of discourse e.g. news, education, and religion into forms of entertainment.
10. To combat the potential negative influences of television we need to educate people about the way in which a technology functions as a medium of communication and influence the nature, role, and function of information in a culture.
11. Only through an awareness of the structure and effects of television, through a demystification of media, will we be able to gain some measure of control over mediums of communication e.g. television, the computer, electronic mail, interactive video and so forth.
12. We need to become more media-conscious.
13. How can we use education to control our technological mediums of communication?
14. American television limits freedom of expression and choice because its only criterion for merit and significance is popularity.