Category Archives: Technology

Postman’s Prescience

Neil Postman, writing three decades ago, in Amusing Ourselves to Death (Penguin Books, 1986):

In both oral and typographic cultures, information derives its importance from the possibilities of action. Of course, in any communication environment, input (what one is informed about) always exceeds output (the possibilities of action based on information). But the situation created by telegraphy, and then exacerbated by later technologies, made the relationship between information and action both abstract and remote. For the first time in human history, people were faced with the problem of information glut, which means that simultaneously they were faced with the problem of a diminished social and political potency.

You may get a sense of what this means by asking yourself another series of questions: What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime and unemployment? What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war? What do you plan to do about NATO, OPEC, the CIA, affirmative action, and the monstrous treatment of the Baha’is in Iran? I shall take the liberty of answering for you: You plan to do nothing about them. You may, of course, cast a ballot for someone who claims to have some plans, as well as the power to act. But this you can do only once every two or four years by giving one hour of your time, hardly a satisfying means of expressing the broad range of opinions you hold. Voting, we might even say, is the next to last refuge of the politically impotent. The last refuge is, of course, giving your opinion to a pollster, who will get a version of it through a desiccated question, and then will submerge it in a Niagara of similar opinions, and convert them into—what else?—another piece of news. Thus, we have here a great loop of impotence: The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing. (pp. 68-69)

Also:

Prior to the 1984 presidential elections, the two candidates confronted each other on television in what were called “debates.” These events were not in the least like the Lincoln-Douglas debates or anything else that goes by the name. Each candidate was given five minutes to address such questions as, What is (or would be) your policy in Central America? His opposite number was then given one minute for a rebuttal. In such circumstances, complexity, documentation and logic can play no role, and, indeed, on several occasions syntax itself was abandoned entirely. It is no matter. The men were less concerned with giving arguments than with “giving off” impressions, which is what television does best. Post-debate commentary largely avoided any evaluation of the candidates’ ideas, since there were none to evaluate. Instead, the debates were conceived as boxing matches, the relevant question being, Who KO’d whom? The answer was determined by the “style” of the men—how they looked, fixed their gaze, smiled, and delivered one-liners. In the second debate, President Reagan got off a swell one-liner when asked a question about his age. The following day, several newspapers indicated that Ron had KO’d Fritz with his joke. Thus, the leader of the free world is chosen by the people in the Age of Television. (p. 97)

How far things have come since 1986!

Hebrew OT and Greek NT on the Kindle

I bought a Kindle Keyboard 3G last year, and at first I didn’t like it one bit. My wife, on the other hand, quickly took to it; she was thrilled to discover how many classic works of literature are available for free or $0.99. After that I could barely prise it out of her hands. On a whim, while on vacation, I decided to buy a copy of Mark Steyn’s After America and a subscription to The Spectator (UK edition, of course). Steyn’s side-splitting jeremiad is a riveting read, and the Kindle subscription to The Spectator (delivered instantly on the day of publication each week) is a fraction of the price of an overseas subscription. Together they cured me of Kindle-phobia. In fact, I’d find it hard to live without it now. (I had to buy a second one for my wife.)

William Tyndale shows off his Kindle

Recently it occurred to me how useful it would be to have the Hebrew OT and Greek NT on my Kindle. (For an English translation I already have the free ESV for Kindle — thanks, Crossway!) I did some hunting and found the following, which I thought I’d pass on for interested readers:

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RefTagger Anywhere

Several years ago I created Bible Refalizer: an extension for Firefox that automatically hyperlinks Bible references in any web page to an online Bible. I’ve made a few minor improvements over the years in response to user feedback, but I haven’t implemented the most commonly requested feature, namely, the option to add tooltips containing the Bible passage to the hyperlinks. I haven’t added that feature because, in all honesty, it would take too much work and I don’t have the time and motivation.

Most of the people who have asked for this feature make a comparison with RefTagger. Created by the clever folk from Logos Bible Software, RefTagger is “a tool that lets your website visitors instantly view a Bible passage by hovering their mouse over a Bible reference.” It’s very nicely done and you’ve almost certainly seen it in action on one of your favorite blogs or websites (if you have JavaScript enabled in your browser). However, while RefTagger’s processing is done on the client side (i.e., in the user’s browser) the code to enable it has to be added on the server side (i.e., by the owner of the blog or website). For this reason RefTagger only functions on sites that have chosen to implement it.

Until now, that is.

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