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Reading 19 "Technopoly" by Neil Postman


1. Skepticism

"If one is to err, it is better to err on the side of Thamusian skepticism," writes Postman on page 5. What he is essentially asserting is his belief that "a dissenting voice is sometimes needed to moderate the din made by the enthusiastic multitudes." (5) Postman sees in our rapidly changing, technology-embracing world today, there are far too many 'Technophiles,' or advocates of technology who can only see what technology can positively do and not what it will undo. Therefore, a healthy level of skepticism is necessary, according to Postman, to avoid negative effects technology will have on our existing social fabric. He illustrates this point by quoting Sigmund Freud, who first discusses the postive aspects of the railroad on commerce, transporation, and communication, and then discusses the negatives of the railroad causing children to disperse from their hometowns and the separation of loved ones. "The benefits and deficits of a new technology are not distrubuted equally. There are, as it were, winners and losers," he writes on page 9, suggesting such skepticism before the embrace of a new technology.

2. Competition

"New technologies compete with old ones--for time, for attention, for money, for prestige, but mostly for dominance of their world-view," writes postman on page 16. Technology, he further asserts, is "neither additive nor subtractive" (18) but ecological in the sense that one significant change generates total change. New technology often cannot coexist with old technology, as the world of technology is an evolutionary Darwinist world of survival of the fittest; a competition for prominence. The losers in this competiton become obsolete and are replaced in the ecological environment of our technological world. "New technologies alter the structure of our interests: the things we think about. They alter the character of our symbols: the things we think with. And they alter the nature of community: the arena in which thoughts develop." (20)


1. According to the views of Postman, technologies are neither additive nor subtractive, but bring about total change. Have new technologies in architecture, such as CAD and 3-D printers, brought about this "total change" in the architectural arena, as Postman's theories would suggest?

2. "In any case, theological assumptions served as a controlling ideology, and whatever tools were invented had, ultimately, to fit within that ideology," explains Postman of the Middle Ages. Could we replace "theological assumptions" with an equivalent in architecture; something which serves as a controlling ideology that forces tools architects adopt for use to fit into it?