Neil Postman is a well known writer, columnist and a cultural critic. Postman was born and brought up in New York. He is associated with his bestselling book "Amusing Ourselves to Death", which is about television. He has been a professor in New York University for a long time. He was a human columnist who believed that new technology cannot be a substitute of human values.
Postman believes that anew technology favors only a certain group of people. He argues that technology always comes with a price to pay, especially, in the human societies. He said that technology takes and gives at the same time. He proposes that, in many cases, the measure in which it is taking may not be the same with the measure in which it gives to the society. On the other hand, what it gives is not the same as what it takes. For example, printing as a new technology steered the sense of individuality and the destroyed the sense of social and cultural integration. It also fostered the development of modern science but made Religion a superstitious phenomenon.
"Amusing Ourselves to Death" is a narrative that is historic and explores how communication medium has died and replaced by Television images. Television images have replaced communication by word of mouth. He argues that television is not efficient in giving education as it gives only upside down information and not the interaction that is required to maximize learning.
"Peak-a-boo world" is a chapter in the book "Amusing Ourselves to Death". It is the chapter that deals with how television images have transformed the world into a world of images and not that of words which necessitates proper learning and interaction.
Postman, in this chapter, argues that form is what has been capitalized and not the content. This is to say that a certain medium can only accommodate a certain number of ideas. Television does not emphasize on the quality of information. It emphasizes on the quantity of entertainment which does not support the societies far reaching needs, and which is subordinate to the societal needs. Television has capitalized on the form and not content.
In this chapter, Postman has also brought to our knowledge the fact that television is all about entertaining. The society needs more than just music. When news is being presented, it is normally interrupted by unnecessary advertisements like hairdo's, nail art or where to find this commercial or that. What is the benefit of these commercials to the society? They do not provide a way in which people can learn. With this kind of entertainment and music, Postman acknowledges the fact that television programs are not to be taken seriously. He further tries to find the difference between written speech, which seem to have been forgotten, and the televised form of speech, which has taken effect with the introduction of televisions.
Postman argues that due to the challenge of written discourse, politics has taken another course. The course taken is that where, the ideas and thoughts of politicians do not matter much, but what matters they present themselves in the form. This is to say that the dressing code of this person matters much more than what he is telling the audience. In the eighteenth century, when written discourse was at its peak, the society focused mainly on what the politicians had to say and not how they presented themselves in terms of form. Television has introduced the form where there is no connection between the society's needs and the form of entertainment it is giving.
Postman has referred to the inability to act on information from televised sources the "Information-action Ratio". This is to say that, the information the viewers get from television is followed by little or no action.
Postman has referred to television information as a metaphor. He explains how literate, oral and televisual cultures have differed in prioritizing and processing information. The need for rational thinking is made weak by Television viewing. He compares viewing television with reading. He says that reading develops a culture of deep intellectual involvement which is both interactive and dialectical while viewing is a passive act which inhibits intellectual growth. In addition, televisions are programmed to follow certain ratings and information will always be limited, therefore, not satisfying the pre-requisites for honest intellectual development and rational argument. Reading gives an individual the facts required in certain critical situations while viewing limits the facts required in the same situation.
Postman also states that the eighteenth century was the age of reason. It was the years when a rational argument could be conducted. It was the only period in time where difficult truths could be conveyed rationally. He gives a vivid example on how the first fifteen presidents of the United States of America could walk the streets of several states and are hardly noticed by the common citizens. They were only recognized through their written words. Today's presidents are contrary to the first they focus on the form and not rational arguments. The names of famous scientists, preachers and lawyers, call up for television images. It is only a few of them that their written words come to mind when we see them. These few only come in the form of sound bites because televisions have rated viewing.
It is, therefore, true that technology has taken more than it has given human societies. Postman's arguments in the chapter "Peek-a-Boo World" give the full arguments as to why television, which is, one of the new technologies has taken a lot from the society.