November 18, 2003

Eric McLuhan

Neil Postman enjoyed such universal esteem that his loss is being felt by his colleagues and associates everywhere around the world. From my own few encounters with him, it was patent that he clearly enjoyed debate and discussion. In this respect, he was rather like my own father, who also would use conversation to hone ideas and expressions and to make fresh discoveries through the encounter with another intellect and set of ideas and perspectives.

I saw Neil speak on a number of occasions, though I was never priveleged to attend any of his lectures. But these moments were enough to reveal a man who enjoyed--nay, reveled in--repartee with an audience, which made those occasions delightful as well as informative and interesting. I gather from former students that his lectures were often just as entertaining. A very few have that gift: they are the superior teachers.

Postman first came to Marshall McLuhan's attention through the book with Chuck Weingartner, which my father enjoyed and cited often in subsequent years, in essays, in classes and in more public addresses. They also met a number of times during that period in the late sixties when McLuhan was at Fordham. I was present for some of those mettings, and, though I cannot recall any of them in detail now, my residual impression was that both men respected (and enjoyed) each other enormously. So, of course, they disagreed on matters--no matter how many or few; after all, you cannot have a decent argument with someone whom you don't respect.

A bright light has disapeared from the firmament. We are the poorer for the loss. But rather than moan the loss, let us thank God for giving us that light to illuminate our paths for a brief time. We have much to be thankful for.

November 08, 2003

Tom Farrell - University of Minnesota

I did not have the pleasure of ever meeting Neil Postman in person, but I use two of his books, Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly, in an introductory-level course that I teach: Literacy, Society, and Technology. Actually, I divide each of his books into two parts, so that Postman is the center of our attention during four different weeks in the course.

Now, it so happens that I plan to go up for promotion to Full Professor this year. The review process is rather elaborate. Among other things, I am supposed to ask some former students to write testimonials about my teaching.

One former student wrote a rave review about Literacy, Technology, and Society, which he took in his first semester in college in the Fall 2000 semester. Among other things, he says, "One of the more critical examinations of the media was our discussion in class and related readings of the cognitive and societal effects of television. Ever since taking Thomas Farrell's class, I have significantly decreased my intake of televised entertainment in exchange for my freedom from its seductive lure and deeper knowledge of its detrimental effects."

Even though I did not know Neil Postman personally, I imagine that he would be pleased to read that his book Amusing Ourselves to Death had such an impact on a student. What more could a prophet ask for?

For each of the four weeks that we devote to one thing or another by Postman, I tell the students beforehand that they do not have to agree with anything he says, but that they do need to summarize accurately in their own words what he says. The students usually end up saying that they agree with his criticisms of television. So I am thankful to Neil Postman for writing such cogent criticism of television.

--Tom Farrell

October 22, 2003

A blogger's tribute

A blogger named Christopher has a nice tribute with some quotes. He also made a well-linked Neil Postman site.

October 18, 2003

Thomas Harkins - NYU

Having spent the past (nearly nine) years hanging around Neil and the Dept. of Culture and Communication office, I can ASSURE you that Neil himself never actually "sent" any e-mails. He did, however, from time to time, dictate messages to his personal Assistant, who would then send those messages os e-mails on his behalf. But Neil actually touch a computer? Perish the thought. It never happened.

Continue reading "Thomas Harkins - NYU"

October 17, 2003

Neil Postman on the Listserv

From Lance Strate:

We all know about Neil being identified as a neo-Luddite, and his criticisms of our use of computers, e-mail, and the Internet. But many of you may be unaware that Neil did once send a post to the media ecology listserv. This happened during the very early days of our list. It was only about a month old, there were only a dozen or two subscribers, and most were from NYU. Neil was not subscribed to the list, of course, not having e-mail, but his colleague Chris Nystrom was on the list, and showed him the messages we had been exchanging. Neil's response, which I have pasted in below, was classic Postman--witty, imaginative, a brilliant bit of writing. And there is also something ironic now, reading it after his passing, in his put on of a voice from another world. As he was channeling McLuhan, through the Internet we can now channel Postman:

Continue reading "Neil Postman on the Listserv"

October 16, 2003

Lance Strate

Lance Strate and ETC. have kindly made available his 1994 ETC. paper "Post(Modern)Man, or Neil Postman as a Postmodernist", which may be read here