I’m finding it entertaining at the minute reading bits from “Everything bad…” alongside sections of Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”. We know Johnson has read the Postman book – he refers to it towards the very end at least – but it is interesting how he avoids its arguments entirely. In looking to the ‘cognitive challenges’ that pop culture makes of it viewers and participants, Johnson generally (but not always) avoids discussing the content.
Postman, on the other hand, argues that the medium constrains and shapes the content in very real ways.
Johnson finds that Pop Culture is making us smarter. Postman, that due to popular culture – and the mediums that carry it – “we are getting sillier by the minute”. Postman did not see the rise of blogs and wikis, but his comments on the fragmentation of information surely apply at least equally as well to these new forms of communication as they did to television.
Is it possible that as pop culture sharpens the abilities to deal with visual media, the speed by which people react to visual cues increases, the ability to track multiple threads grows (to accept Johnson’s arguments) that the abilities to search for depth rather than breadth, to concentrate on individual tasks, to build extended and reasoned arguments is impaired?