Changing characteristics modern discourse (communication)


The Typographic Mind


p. 57


Amusing Ourselves To Death


“…whose mind is formed by the printed word.”


“…An ideal to which every lawyer aspired.”

p. 58.



The typographic mind is in retreat today from the digital simulacrum of mind; and in steps from printed words being replaced by telegraphed messages, photographed events, and broadcast talks the arrival of the computer was along a path paved by the very means that eroded discourse based on writing.

JVS commentary on Postman's Typographical Mind and its passing.



“And not until the end of the nineteenth century did advertising move fully into its modern mode of discourse (communication).”


Typographical refers to the technology of typesetting in order to mass produce leaflets, pamphlets, newspapers, books, magazines and journals composed largely in not entirely of the printed word. It is -- or was for many centuries the foundations of literacy.


The typographical imagination, derived from reading, analytical discourse and recitation was:


An “essentially serious and rational enterprise.”

p. 59.

“Appeal to understanding – not passions”

p. 60.

“ritual invested with special meaning”

p. 61.

“What else was reading but comprehending?”

p. 61.

What constitutes learning well?


“Exposition is a mode of thought, a method of learning, and a means of expression.”


"A sophisticated ability to think conceptually, deductively, and sequentially; a high valuation of reason and order; an abhorrence of of contradiction; a large capacity for detachment and objectivity; and a tolerance for delayed response.”


“Toward the end of the nineteenth century the Age of Exposition began to pass, and the early signs of it replacement could be discerned.

p. 63.



The Peek A Boo World,

Chapter 5.


Pages 65-80.


Conquest of space

The solution to these problems was electricity.



Telegraphy did something that Morse did not foresee

“One neighborhood of the whole country.”

Strangers became neighbors


Created its own definition of discourse

Irrelevance, impotence and incoherence were introduced by telegraphy in                     

                    redefining discourse

    “The telegraph made information into a commodity,a ‘thing’ that  

       could be bought and sold irrespective of its source of meaning.” (65)


Partnership between telegraph and newspapers altered journalism

Baltimore Patriot reporting of the Congressional debate on the Oregon issue

this indeed was an annihilation of space.” (the news report said).


Newspapers investing in telegraphy was a sign of the future in 1850s


May 24, 1844 Morse opened the telegraph office, 1848 AP wire service est.


telegraphy made relevance, irrelevant.”


“populated by strangers who knew nothing but the most superficial facts about each other.” (p. 67).


“information derives its importance from the possibilities of action


“But most of our daily news is inert.”  Information :  action ratiowas altered



“information glut” is a condition wherein the I:A ration diminishes capacity to act






What steps do you plan to take?


        “Voting we might say Is the last best refuge of the politically impotent.”


Information – “did not permit the right of reply.”


“Dignify irrelevance and amplify impotence.” 


“telegraphy exact opposite of typography (p. 69)



Books –

“organized analysis of information.”

“it takes time”


Telegraphy fails to pass the “test of permanence, continuity or coherence.”


“Sensational, fragmented, impersonal” headline culture, disconnected messages


Telegraph wrought a world – delivered by newspapers—of fragments & discontinuities.


Origins of Photography


Louis Daguerre was re conceiving the meaning of nature –or realty itself.” P. 71.


“The daguerreotype it gives her the power to reproduce herself.”


“refashioning nature to make it comprehensible and manageable.”


“he had invented the world’s first cloning device.”


Herschel’s name “writing with light” had an ironic quality


Photography and writing emerged into two different universes of discourse (p. 71)


Photography as a “language is a risky metaphor” because it has a limited vocabulary


Any photo lacks a syntax, making it unable to argue with the world.


The point of photography is to isolate images from context.” (Sontag refer.) p. 73


Amusing Ourselves to Death, pp, 73-80.



“Like telegraphy photography recreates the world as a series of idiosyncratic events”


“The sudden and massive intrusion of the photograph into the symbolic environs”

Daniel Boorstin's The Image is an account of how events and reality were replaced by pseudo-events and advertising values creeping into and eventually supplanting journalism


“fierce assault of machine produced images” on language


“the picture forced exposition into the background.” “obliterated it altogether”

telegraphic “news from nowhere” was perfectly complemented by photos

the context created by tele-&photography was “of course entirely illusory.”


"People once gathered information to manage the real contexts of their lives, now they had to invent contexts (crossword puzzles) in which otherwise useless information might be put to some apparent use.” p. 76.


The emergence as a the phony, fake, and fabricated reality passing for knowledge of the world.


The major “creation of the graphic revolution was the pseudo-event” specifically staged to be reported.”


“The pseudo-context is the last refuge,… of a culture overwhelmed by irrelevance, incoherence, and impotence.”                                p. 76.


A language that denied interconnectedness, proceeded without context, argued the irrelevance of history, explained nothing and offered fascination in place of complexity and coherence.”


A mediated world of passivity

“a world that does not ask us,--does not permit us to do anything


 Childishly “peek a boo”  world that is endlessly entertaining (p. 77.)


“The problem comes when we try to live in them.” (our dreams)


Television allowed us to actually “live in them” 78


TV I the command center of the new epistemology” shaped by the biases of TV


TV arranges our communications environment for us in ways” no other medium can


Why we believe the unbelievable.


Computer literacy in the future – but TV is the “meta-medium” but our knowledge of the ways of knowing as well.” p. 79.


Status of myth – “which is a way of understanding the world that is not problematic.” – Roland Barths


“We do not doubt the reality of what we see on television.”  P. 79


“the background radiation of the social and intellectual universe.” No longer strange


“the world as given to us through television seems natural, and not bizarre.”


Make the epistemology of television visible again.” 80


“For the loss of the sense of the strange is a sign of adjustment, and the extent to which we have adjusted is a measure of the extent  to which we have been changed.”


Pp. 79-80.



The Age of Show Business


Chapter 6,



Television & an assault on literacy based on context and content.   



"These quixotic uses of television to ridicule the hope harbored by some that television can be used to support the literate tradition.”


Exactly what M. Mcluhan called “rear-view mirror” thinking?

By applying today, past ideas in an effort to fit (shoe-horn in) radically disruptive technical advances that actually cannot incorporate older ways of doing things.   

p. 83.

Day After (a prime-time television show on an imagined nuclear –war– holocaust) discourse:


“Our culture has moved toward a new way of conducting its business – even important business. Experts must answer not to the rigors of their disciplines, but to the bar of “good showmanship.”


“There is no business, but show business.”

p. 98


How commercial radio and television media dislodged discourse from flowing to staccato imagery.



Now .  .  . This.

  Chapter 7,


“A conjunction that does not connect anything to anything but does the opposite: separates everything from everything.”

p. 99.


Disconnected and fragmented concepts mixed with images and sounds --


Can we survive if we take the measure of the world in twenty –two minutes?


Is the value of our news determined by the number of laughs it provides?

p. 113.


Shuffle off to Bethlehem

Chapter 8,


"Television is not congenial to messages of naked hate.”

p. 116.



Reach Out and Elect Someone

Chapter 9,


Politics is "America’s number 1 spectator sport.”

Us versus Them

In addition to sport, then Governor Reagan’s “politics is just like show business.”

Remarks are made not with a speaker's audience in mind but with television media more so than radio in mind.


“Appear as if you are.”

Pursuing quality of clarity. honesty, and excellence


“In America, the fundamental metaphor for political discourse is the television commercial.”

p. 126.

Amusing Ourselves To Death




Steinham | Sontag | Griffin | Postman's point