Reading Response #4 (Steven Lourenco)

Viet Cong – Newspaper Spoons


So, after reading Neil Postman’s 1990 speech Informing Ourselves to Death, I feel that I agree with the gentleman. It is disheartening to hear that we as a collective “people” (whether that be a physical population or as a sort of nametag for the current and coming generations) have essentially continued our human-made path toward “enlightenment”.  Yet our movement remains in crawl-mode and the path is arid. When Postman references greats like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Thoreau, and Pogo the possum, he highlights that self-knowledge can only come from the tranquility of life, the accepting of our nature.


You said it, Pogo

To paint a picture, Postman stood in front of hundreds if not a couple thousand people who exist in a realm of playing that God-Author role, producing and relying on their tools derived from the digital world, and he referenced religious figure-heads to indicate the severity of the situation. That we are becoming enveloped in things that we whole-heartedly believe will change our lives and will improve the world for generations to come. But Postman wishes to indicate that we are becoming completely occupied with the tools that are said to be geared toward enlightenment and this is the crux of the issue (and his speech). Our acceptance and even expectation of the efficiency of and straight up, just the presence of said technologies in our lives has almost solidified our reliance on them.


*drools* Love you so much, baby *drools*

If I had to confront a convention full of robotics specialists, engineers, programmers, technicians (and others) with the same message, I would hope to have the emotional gravitas and arsenal of prose as Postman. He really appealed to a sort of human guilt. If it wasn’t there before, he certainly managed to implant it. I think that at the pit of the whole idea, we have humans who really do want the best for themselves, families, friends, communities, and the world (it may dwindle incrementally but its a nice thought). We use organic and human-made tools to make our lives easier and our digital technologies are simply an extension of that effort. But I think that because there is so much of us in these tools, we root for them to the -nth degree. We whole-heartedly believe that these inventions are going to save us all from all of our illnesses and downfalls. But the system itself is just as sick because we have our little hands in it. Some would call them distractions or addictions, and because the technology is constantly responding to our actions and informing ours simultaneously, perhaps they are. We need it just as much as it needs us.

I think if I were to write a speech about computer technology today, for someone to read down the arid road, I’d probably start with how our necks are fucked. “There is this new stance called the hang-man, where you hold your phone at your waist, arm holding phone glued tightly to your side, and your curl your neck forward at precisely 90 degrees to look down at it.”

…I wouldn’t start with that but would maybe touch on it. Yes, the physical effect our devices and tools have on us is certainly noticeable. Our lack of eye-contact, our-stopping-the-middle-of-the-god-damned-street-to-text-back, our selfie-stance (hand-outstretched in front of body, phone facing back)…the list goes on but this is on facet of how the technology has manipulated the human body, and even determines the physicality of settings and locations. By this I mean to say that physical streets, cafes, malls, parks (!), homes etc. have become more notable only in relation to their wi-fi for example. For another example, there is this feeling that I get specifically now that I am living on my own, that pertains to the presence of cable and/or wi-fi. I don’t watch tv, I occasionally use Netflix, but Im not on there too much (this isn’t the addiction talking, I mean it). But I use alot of wi-fi, I’m practically on it at all times unless I’m out or at work and sometimes, when I go places that don’t have it…….I get anxious, slightly depressed, uncomfortable. This is kind of embarrassing. but I have this feeling I’m not the only one. I think it comes from this widespread idea that our technology represents our sophistication, our pure and steadfast advancement. And I think that is what I would have to say. I would tell stories of people slipping off cliffs for not looking behind them during selfies and about bullies who brought their hate to Facebook to incite thoughts of suicide and people losing entire financial stability because of Stoner666_Fuck. And maybe now after saying that, maybe its a whole other conversation. Through our addiction to all this funky newness, we will eventually just step into the technology and become a part of it. Insert 80’s techno-adventure joke here.

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