Feld Notes

Sep 2019

PhD Study Journal: Entry 2 📝

I’m currently reading a fascinating book by renowned media ecologist Neil Postman, which is called Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1993). In the text, Postman explains how technology has come to rule our lives, business and social institutions. We have made the shift from tool-using cultures, to technocracies and finally to technopolies.

A particular point that has leapt out at me is how he describes the transformation of information. The direct quote below is incredibly relevant to today, particularly considering the fact that it was written well before the rise of today’s dominant social media platforms.

Check this out: ‘Information has become a form of garbage, not only incapable of answering the most fundamental human questions but barely useful in providing coherent direction to the solution of even mundane problems. To say it yet another way: The milieu in which Technopoly flourishes is one in which the tie between information and human purpose has been severed, i.e. information appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume and at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or purpose’ (Postman, 1993, pp. 69–71).

This perfectly describes platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube; information and content just keeps flowing… and for what? What does it all mean? It’s impossible to actually consume everything.

To me, services like Micro.blog do not yet fall into this category of informational garbage, nor do podcasts, for which I only have a limited number of feeds. For those who thrive in these spaces (both as producers and consumers), however, it will be important not to overload and repeat the mistakes of the very recent past. Let’s stay focused and meaningful in our online behaviour.