Midterm

Neil Postman and danah boyd sit down for coffee

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Due: Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 5 p.m.

During the first part of the semester we considered the impact mediated communication (including print, the telegraph, television and social media) had on our culture and public discourse. A key text in that consideration was Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. Another key text was danah boyd’s much shorter piece, “Participating in the Always On Lifestyle.” Though they are discussing different media and are from different generations, both authors pay particular attention technology and it’s impact on communication. They are also addressing the consequences of a media-saturated culture.

Your assignment is create a dialogue between Postman and boyd during which they state their own arguments and critique each other’s arguments. By “dialogue” I mean an actual script, as in:

Postman: But surely all of this texting and Twitter will further the decline of public discourse. How much context can you include in 140 characters?

boyd: I disagree. All of these tweets and texts add up to a rich context.

Here is the scenario:

Postman and boyd are meeting at a coffee shop. boyd arrives first, pulls out her phone and begins corresponding with friends, tweeting etc. Postman, who has been resurrected from the dead and dropped into San Francisco in 2014, is just getting caught up on all of the advances in technology – social media, the mobile phone, etc.

So boyd explains the devices and platforms to him and your dialogue starts as so:

boyd: So what do you think, Neil? Isn’t this terrific?

Postman: Ummmm …

… You take it from there.

This is not a matter of just making up what Postman and boyd would say to each other. The idea is to use the conversation to explain their approaches and thoughts on media that they explain in their writing. During the dialogue, you should explicate concepts that they engage in their writing, such as  “the typographic mind,” “the medium is the metaphor,” “information-action ratio,” and others. Also, how might they discuss the “epistemology of social media?”

Your dialogue should include critiques of these concepts as well. For example, how might boyd critique Postman’s idea of the “typographic mind?” Would technological determinism figure into her critique?

Your conversation should be about 1,000 words and it should be double-spaced. The idea here is to write conversationally here – to put these things into your own words (which are then turned into their words).

Please post your midterm on your reading notes google doc (not a new one, the same one).

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