Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine / Volume 2, Number 3 / March 1, 1995 / Page 23



by Nancy Kaplan

Although in his analysis of the techno-cultural moment Postman is careful to say that technologies and the changes they bring both giveth and taketh away, he is much more interested in gloomy prognostications than in sunny ones. The computer, Postman argues, is a singularly powerful weapon in the conquest Technopoly has already achieved in America, and will soon achieve in the rest of the post-industrial world. Technopoly is, surprisingly enough, not a specific technology but a whole technological mindset, what Postman calls a "totalitarian technocracy" (p. 48) Context.

"Technopoly is a state of culture. It is also a state of mind. It consists in the deification of technology, which means that the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology." Technopoly, he argues, flourishes wherever people "believe that information is an unmixed blessing, which through its continued and uncontrolled production and dissemination offers increased freedom, creativity, and peace of mind.... Technopoly flourishes when the defenses against information break down" (p. 71)Context .

Postman grudgingly concedes that electronic textuality may someday offer "a new kind of book, expanding and enriching the tradition of writing technologies.... But for the moment, [he asserts] computer technology functions more as a new mode of transportation than as a new means of substantive communication. It moves information -- lots of it, fast, and mostly in calculating mode" (p. 118) Context. For Postman, the computer stands in opposition to genuinely human affairs.

Tuman agrees.
Lanham and Bolter beg to differ.

OK, so these guys just generally don't see things the same way. What's at stake in this dispute, anyway?

This page is part of the article, "E-literacies: Politexts, Hypertexts and Other Cultural Formations in the Late Age of Print."

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