Reason, Democracy,
 and Extravagant
   Expectations
   by David Hildebrand
What are “extravagant
   expectations”?
...and beyond material
    comforts, they are:
expectations about what
the world should hold for
           us:
How much news we need

 How quickly and conveniently things should
                  happen

      How perfect our heroes ...
These expectations have become
   ubiquitous & dangerous:
• “The making of the illusions which flood
  our experience has b...
What are the effects:
 • Of these expectations?
 • How do these expectations get
   perpetuated and expanded?
And what’s the effect...
On reasoning, morality,
 and democratic life?
Let’s start with a
           question:

• 2 minute writing:
• What are the effects of our media environment on the
   ave...
Democracy endures
 because of its citizens:
• Widespread ability among citizens to
  • Reason
  • Deliberate and Discuss
 ...
And we believe that
democracy is more than
a form of government...
It’s a way of life...one
   we’d call “good”
The connection in more
    detail...[listen]
Key ideas...

• A democratic way of life requires
  habits which cultivate intelligence
• And such habits must be fostered...
To understand some of
 the obstacles faced by
democracy-as-a-way-of-
         life....
We need to look at our
       media




• Asking not only, “What’s on
  TV?” (Asking about content)
But, “How are we
  watching?”
How are we USING TV?
Two theorists on media,
reason, and democracy:




Neil Postman   Daniel Boorstin
Postman posed an
 interesting question:
•Which dystopia are we
 most in danger of falling
 into?
•Orwell’s 1984?
•Huxley’s...
Orwell’s fears:
A society based upon
CONTROL:
 
 
 
 
 surveillance
 external oppression

 
 
 book bannings, censorship o...
Huxley’s fears:
A society based upon DISTRACTION:
 overflow of information
 truth lost in irrelevance
 focus on comfort, co...
For Postman, Huxley
had the threat pegged:

• Distraction
• Fragmentation
• and above all:
• Entertainment as the envelopi...
"Television is our culture's principal mode of knowing about
itself. Therefore -- and this is the critical point -- how te...
The “mode” of
entertainment becomes
 the “normal” mode for
   how many areas of
   culture frame and
      understand
    ...
“Know thyself”
Freedom of the press...
Worship
“Edu-tainment” =




                     Education
                         +
                   Entertainment!
Political Theater:
Problem:
  Reasoning is not
produced by a culture
    dominated by
   entertainment
And while TV is only one
      medium...

   It is the dominant
          medium
The dominance of TV
and the seriousness with
   which it takes itself
    leads Postman to
• “The best things on television
 are its junk, and no one and
 nothing is seriously
 threatened by it.”
Unfortunately, the
 “mode” of the junk...the
entertainment mode has
become the mode for all
     information...
Television ushering in Huxleyan world.
The Huxleyan world:

• Is constructed out of
  • “Pseudo Images”
  • “Pseudo contexts”
The “press conference”
“Opinion making
  journalism”
News “quizzes” to make
the trivial seem “relevant”
Polling and “news” about
         Polling
OPINION POLL CYCLE:

1.	 News--generates--> opinions --measured by---> polls

2.	 Polls---collected and reported as----> n...
All these pseudo events
 and pseudo contexts:
• Frustrate the development of
 • critical, analytical thinking
 • patient, ...
Intelligence without
 which democracy




 cannot function.
This is the epistemic purpose of
         media criticism:
“To discover our illusions will not solve
the problems of our world. But if we do
not discover them, we will never discove...
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key
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Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key

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This slideshow/keynote explores the connections between Neil Postman's and Daniel Boorstin's theories of media, communication, and democratic discourse. They are part of the course Philosophy of Media and Technology by David L. Hildebrand at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Reason Democracy Extravagant Expectations Key

  1. 1. Reason, Democracy, and Extravagant Expectations by David Hildebrand
  2. 2. What are “extravagant expectations”?
  3. 3. ...and beyond material comforts, they are: expectations about what the world should hold for us:
  4. 4. How much news we need How quickly and conveniently things should happen How perfect our heroes should be How we can defeat aging How we can shape the world by flexing our muscle And see it play out cleanly, in 2 minutes on the evening news
  5. 5. These expectations have become ubiquitous & dangerous: • “The making of the illusions which flood our experience has become the business of America…[not only] advertising and public relations and political rhetoric, but of all the activities which purport to inform and comfort and improve and elevate us” [e.g. journalists, book publishing, manufacturers, travel guides, leaders in foreign relations.] (Boorstin, 787)
  6. 6. What are the effects: • Of these expectations? • How do these expectations get perpetuated and expanded?
  7. 7. And what’s the effect...
  8. 8. On reasoning, morality, and democratic life?
  9. 9. Let’s start with a question: • 2 minute writing: • What are the effects of our media environment on the average person’s ability to be a democratic citizen? • What abilities and responsibilities does a citizen have, at the minimum?
  10. 10. Democracy endures because of its citizens: • Widespread ability among citizens to • Reason • Deliberate and Discuss • Achieve consensus • Act • and REVISE
  11. 11. And we believe that democracy is more than a form of government...
  12. 12. It’s a way of life...one we’d call “good”
  13. 13. The connection in more detail...[listen]
  14. 14. Key ideas... • A democratic way of life requires habits which cultivate intelligence • And such habits must be fostered by the right kinds of • education • communication
  15. 15. To understand some of the obstacles faced by democracy-as-a-way-of- life....
  16. 16. We need to look at our media • Asking not only, “What’s on TV?” (Asking about content)
  17. 17. But, “How are we watching?”
  18. 18. How are we USING TV?
  19. 19. Two theorists on media, reason, and democracy: Neil Postman Daniel Boorstin
  20. 20. Postman posed an interesting question: •Which dystopia are we most in danger of falling into? •Orwell’s 1984? •Huxley’s Brave New World
  21. 21. Orwell’s fears: A society based upon CONTROL: surveillance external oppression book bannings, censorship of ideas lack of information truth would be concealed
  22. 22. Huxley’s fears: A society based upon DISTRACTION: overflow of information truth lost in irrelevance focus on comfort, convenience, and amusement lack of desire to read or think surrender of control
  23. 23. For Postman, Huxley had the threat pegged: • Distraction • Fragmentation • and above all: • Entertainment as the enveloping mode of all information
  24. 24. "Television is our culture's principal mode of knowing about itself. Therefore -- and this is the critical point -- how television stages the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged. It is not merely that on the television screen entertainment is the metaphor for all discourse. It is that off the screen the same metaphor prevails. (92)" — Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business)
  25. 25. The “mode” of entertainment becomes the “normal” mode for how many areas of culture frame and understand thaemselves...
  26. 26. “Know thyself”
  27. 27. Freedom of the press...
  28. 28. Worship
  29. 29. “Edu-tainment” = Education + Entertainment!
  30. 30. Political Theater:
  31. 31. Problem: Reasoning is not produced by a culture dominated by entertainment
  32. 32. And while TV is only one medium... It is the dominant medium
  33. 33. The dominance of TV and the seriousness with which it takes itself leads Postman to
  34. 34. • “The best things on television are its junk, and no one and nothing is seriously threatened by it.”
  35. 35. Unfortunately, the “mode” of the junk...the entertainment mode has become the mode for all information...
  36. 36. Television ushering in Huxleyan world.
  37. 37. The Huxleyan world: • Is constructed out of • “Pseudo Images” • “Pseudo contexts”
  38. 38. The “press conference”
  39. 39. “Opinion making journalism”
  40. 40. News “quizzes” to make the trivial seem “relevant”
  41. 41. Polling and “news” about Polling
  42. 42. OPINION POLL CYCLE: 1. News--generates--> opinions --measured by---> polls 2. Polls---collected and reported as----> news 3. News----generates-----> opinions measured by more polls, etc.
  43. 43. All these pseudo events and pseudo contexts: • Frustrate the development of • critical, analytical thinking • patient, detailed observation • suspension of judgment • ...all the features of intelligence
  44. 44. Intelligence without which democracy cannot function.
  45. 45. This is the epistemic purpose of media criticism:
  46. 46. “To discover our illusions will not solve the problems of our world. But if we do not discover them, we will never discover our real problems.” Daniel Boorstin, “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America”, 1961  

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