Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Informing Ourselves To Death

I don't plan on joining the Luddites any time soon, but I am doing some research on the ill effects of electronic media. I read a respected essay by the late Neil Postman. You all know how much I like quotes, aphorisms and bits from history. There's some gooduns in the essay. Here's a nice slice of historical irony for you:

The Benedictine monks who invented the mechanical clock in the 12th and 13th centuries believed that such a clock would provide a precise regularity to the seven periods of devotion they were required to observe during the course of the day. As a matter of fact, it did. But what the monks did not realize is that the clock is not merely a means of keeping track of the hours but also of synchronizing and controlling the actions of men. And so, by the middle of the 14th century, the clock had moved outside the walls of the monastery, and brought a new and precise regularity to the life of the workman and the merchant. The mechanical clock made possible the idea of regular production, regular working hours, and a standardized product. Without the clock, capitalism would have been quite impossible. And so, here is a great paradox: the clock was invented by men who wanted to devote themselves more rigorously to God; and it ended as the technology of greatest use to men who wished to devote themselves to the accumulation of money. Technology always has unforeseen consequences, and it is not always clear, at the beginning, who or what will win, and who or what will lose.

Signore Direttore

1 comment:

Sokrates said...

You might be interested in a new film called "Look" (, which was co-produced by my cousin Meriwether. It deals with the effect of surveillance cameras on modern society and is shot entirely from surveillance-camera angles. I attended a screening in Beverly Hills a few days ago. It opens nationally next month.

Thanks for your e-mail reply, by the way. And kudos on making the poster!