An intermittently Liberal anthology compiled by Jonathan Calder

Friday, September 17, 2004  

Adults in the television age
The modern idea of adulthood is largely a product of the printing press. Almost all of the characteristics we associate with adulthood are those that are (and were) either generated or amplified by the requirements of a fully literate culture: the capacity for self-restraint, a tolerance for delayed gratification, a sophisticated ability to think conceptually and sequentially, a preoccupation with both historical continuity and the future, a high valuation of reason and hierarchical order.

As electric media move literacy to the periphery of culture and take its place at the centre, different attitudes and character traits come to be valued and a new diminished definition of adulthood begins to emerge. It is a definition that does not exclude children, and therefore what results is a new configuration of the stages of life. In the television age there are three. At one end, infancy; at the other, senility. In between there is what we might call the adult-child.

The adult-child may be defined as a grown-up whose intellectual and emotional capacities are unrealised and, in particular, not significantly different from those associated with children.

Neil Postman The Disappearance of Childhood: How TV is changing children's lives (1985)

posted by Jonathan Calder | 4:10 pm