Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Twitter Book Club: Neil Postman (1992) Technopoly - ch1

Isn't there an old Buddhist proverb that goes something like, "When you are ready, your teacher will appear?" Seems like that has been my relationship with Neil Postman this year. I began reading this book about a week ago amidst all the planning I did for our #TechEquity Symposium and now I come back to school after our February break to find a data wall, and don't forget this article by Gary Stager on IWBs (read through the comments, fantastic discussion/debate going on there). Technopoly put all of this into perspective and has left me feeling both empowered and frustrated. I feel empowered with a new language to discuss the problems with misuse of technology (including invisible technologies) but also frustrated knowing that no matter how much I fight against it, in the end I feel like John Henry.

The Judgment of Thamus

"Every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and-that." Postmanless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"we are currently surrounded by throngs of zealous Theuths, one-eyed prophets who see only what new technologies ca... http://tl.gd/8u0pogless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"a dissenting voice is sometimes needed to moderate the din made by the enthusiastic multitudes." Postmanless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"radical technologies create new definitions of old terms, and...this process takes place without our being fully conscious of it." Postmanless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"those who cultivate competence in the use of a new technology become an elite group that are granted undeserved au... http://tl.gd/8u0t0oless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"For four hundred years, school teachers have been part of the knowledge monopoly created by printing, and they are... http://tl.gd/8u0thvless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"new technologies change what we mean by 'knowing' and 'truth'; they alter those deeply embedded habits of thought ... http://tl.gd/8u0upoless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"what the monks did not foresee was that the clock is a means not merely of keeping track of the hours but also of ... http://tl.gd/8u0voiless than a minute ago via Twittelator

Lets repeat that one, because I think it is important:
"what the monks did not foresee was that the clock is a means not merely of keeping track of the hours but also of synchronizing and controlling the actions of men." Postman
I have actually used this example twice in the past week when speaking about technology integration. I also think this is a technology which is starting to lose its grip in our world (or at least I hope so). I first think about when I lived in Nepal and how the culture there regards time as contrasted with how we regard it in the west. I then started to think about how the asynchronous nature of so much online communication and especially the nearly-now nature of both the online school I work for and my interaction in places like blogs and Twitter has shifted the role the technology of the clock has had on me.

"Luther understood, as Gutenberg did not, that the mass-produced book, by placing the Word of God on every kitchen ... http://tl.gd/8u1082less than a minute ago via Twittelator

I also love this quote so I'll repeat it again:
"Luther understood, as Gutenberg did not, that the mass-produced book, by placing the Word of God on every kitchen table, makes each Christian his own theologian—one might even say his own priest, or, better, from Luther's point of view, his own pope." Postman

My sister is a Lutheran pastor. When I shared this quote with her last week she integrated it into her sermon.

@anderscj thanks for the quote! it was the exact link I needed for my sermon... http://prayeradventures2009.blogspot.comless than a minute ago via web

@gretcherson I think you should find a recipe for figgy pudding & print it in the bulletin (or better yet, make some & serve it)less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

Actually, the recipe for Figgy Pudding is quite easy to come by (thanks to modern search tools):

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 cups dried figs (about 1 pound), stems removed, chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Garnish: Whipped cream


In an electric mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the eggs and molasses and beat again. Add the figs, lemon peel, buttermilk, and walnuts. Blend 1 minute. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Blend until everything is incorporated.

Grease and flour and 8 by 4-inch souffle dish and pour in the batter. Bake in a 325-degree F. oven for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Spoon the pudding out onto plates or cut it into wedges. Garnish with the whipped cream.

Yield: 12 servings

Recipe Source: The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas by Jeff Smith (Wm Morrow)
Reprinted with permission.

@gretcherson also, you might want to check out last week's This Am Life on NPR about the original Coke recipe & how the ingredients change.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

Here is a link to that episode. Very interesting how the cola experts think the ingredients would have tasted different just over 100 years ago.

Anyway, sometimes Twitter Book Club conversations get off topic. Back to the book:

"In introducing the personal computer to the classroom, we shall be breaking a four-hundred-year-old truce between ... http://tl.gd/8u11amless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"A new technology does not add or subtract something. It changes everything. In the year 1500, fifty years after th... http://tl.gd/8u131pless than a minute ago via Twittelator

And this quote addresses exactly what Scott Schwister and I were trying to get across in our Many Faces of Tech Integration presentation. Not sure we were able to do in our 15 minutes what Postman does in these few lines:
"A new technology does not add or subtract something. It changes everything. In the year 1500, fifty years after the printing press was invented, we did not have old Europe plus the printing press. We had a different Europe. After television, the United States was not America plus television; television gave a new coloration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, to every church, to every industry." Postman

big part of me thinks Postman's resistance to tech is a futile struggle. Another part of me says "let it burn!" regarding what tech destroysless than a minute ago via Twitterrific


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