For anyone who’s been a J201 TA, this comic (thanks to Hans for sending me this link) speaks to what we spend the first few weeks of the course discussing – and what our students write their first paper on (or at least they did when I taught the class). I really enjoyed the distilling of Postman’s work into a dozen comic slides. 🙂
Also, this comic reminds us that while I was as eager as anyone to poke holes in Postman’s argument (and particularly his use of evidence), he made a really interesting point that society should debate. Is the glut of information actually making people less willing or able to act? I think Postman’s concern is amplified with the growth of new sources of information, such as blogs and open-source news. For example, despite the comparison of WikiLeak’s exposure of information on the war in Afghanistan to the Pentagon Papers, the differences trump the similarities: as Slate’s Anne Applebaum points out, what is any untrained eye to do with over 90,000 pages of information?
Postman is right in one point: too much information can be almost as damaging as not enough information, especially when society often has little incentive and no clear pathway to affect change. For all the concerns about journalists’ infusing their reporting with expertise – and don’t get me wrong, this is always a concern – journalists can use their expertise to help distill information and present a clear picture of what’s important (an argument made by Brent Cunningham). This is a role we still need journalists to perform, perhaps even more when information is abundant.