The Peek A Boo World, Chapter 5.


Amusing Ourselves to Death, pp, 64-80.

Themes: Building on the idea that we are great abbreviators and that discourse abbreviates thought, he assumes:

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, content, & connotation.


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 Samuel F. B. Morse opened the telegraph office, (later: Western Union, A T & T.)


1848 AP or Associated Press, a wire service established to send stories for newspaper reporting.


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 ratio” was altered


information glut”

is a condition wherein the I:A ration diminishes capacity to act, or

Change  ķ∆ķ  “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.




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

                                                                                                   Page, 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


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


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


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




The Image by Daniel Boorstin

Boorstin’s “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 i

nformation might be put to some apparent use.”

                                                                                                   p. 76.




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 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”

p. 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

Computer literacy in the future – but TV is the “meta-medium

Altering not only structuring what we know

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

[tie to Lakoff and Greider]


“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.”



“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.