With the expansion of television as a public service in the 1950s, generating a chain reaction in the continuous field – related technical improvements, a new challenge arose for the average citizen. Television could bring images from all over the world in front of a man who now had the chance to judge everything from his point of view. Still, what was on was indeed the reality? And what happened to the man able to see events from so many parts of the world, to his judgment and his system of values? What changes interfered in the democratic process? These are the questions Sartori analyses, in a fresh and concise style, making use of witty remarks, straightforwardness and even irony.
According to Sartori, Homo Videns – Television and Post-thinking is a call for awareness, informed by the belief that tele-vision alters the nature of man gradually, reaching the point in which it actually creates a new type of alienated human being: the “video-addict”, who responds merely to audio-video stimuli, ignorant to an education intended to shape a real personality. The book warns as well about the danger represented by the amplitude the digital culture continues to take and the emergence of digerated individuals (the abbreviation from digital generation belongs to Luis Rossetto), characterized by a new state of confusion which stems from the persuasion that, in a virtual world, any structure could be decomposed and recomposed, having no stable foundations.
In the architecture of the book, the primacy of the image, the manipulation of public opinion through TV-controlled means and the new challenges democracy faces nowadays under the influence of television are each given an individual chapter and several subchapters, followed by an Appendix added by Sartori in 1999 after a series of debates on the effects of television industry’s new lifestyle pressures, taking into account two interferential levels, the private and the public one: in the first case, the “video-child” develops into a “video-addict”, who cannot but become a wrong example of citizen in a democratic society, without an appropriate civic culture.
Among the factors responsible for this transformation, the role granted to the distinction between the word as a symbol, as a code that must be deciphered in order to be understood and the image, whose unique requirement is related to the function of sight, is fundamental. Homo sapiens (whose knowledge is enlarged within mundus intelligibilis, a world formed of concepts) is replaced, through the means of screen policies, with homo videns, who has a weakened or ever withered capacity of comprehension. Consequently, this new type of human being has a difficulty in dealing with the problems in a rational way, mainly because “the video-addict has less critical spirit than the one who is still a symbolic animal, accustomed to handling abstract symbols”
Often, television conducts towards seeing images without considering their subsequent significance and, moreover, towards interpreting events only from a visual perspective, on the grounds of the principle “non vidi, ergo non est” (not appearing on TV is equal to not existing), not only misinforming the masses, but also manipulating them. The conviction that the image is self-sufficient and cannot lie, as it is intrinsically veridical, is dismissed in the book by proving that the hiding of truth is multifaceted in the approach of television; “inaudita altera parte” (not listening to both parts involved in a certain situation), extraction and separation of pictures from a given/their original context, commentaries with misleading messages are some of the main instruments used for that. Sartori identified two main reasons placed behind the tacit acknowledgement of television as the best form of receiving information and becoming aware of reality. To begin with, the news displayed on TV has the capacity to modify the public’s evaluation standards, which results into a more dangerous fact: the producer becomes the one who produces the consumer. The world comprised in images with the help of television promotes the living on self-demand, specific to newborns in their prompt reaction to instincts.
On the other hand, the book tackles with the formation of public opinion and the function of surveys, inferring that “the surveys are (…) an expression of the power of mass media over the people”. However, a possible critique is that, while public opinion polls are regarded as a catalyst of mass manipulation and thus highly misleading, Giovanni Sartori himself regularly bases his justifications or examples for a large amount of his statements on the results of previously-conducted surveys. Consequently, some of the conclusions drawn come in disagreement with the premises established.
Globally, Homo Videns constitutes an important contribution to the fields of political science and communication, as it introduces the concept of video-shaped reality, with unexpected outcomes both at the socio-political level and at the personal one. The author unfolds that “within the network, information means everything that circulates. Accordingly, informing, misinforming, truth, falseness are all the same”. Here, it is suggested that the meaning of the notion “information” should be reduced to a form of communication, which is, in fact, simply a “contact”. Sartori subtly pinpoints the complex issue of the (in)formation of the citizen, as well as focusing on the way in which video-politics decides who will be elected and how.
 Giovanni Sartori, Homo Videns, Romanian translation by Mihai Elin, Humanitas, Bucharest, 2005, p. 80
 Ibidem, p. 59
 Ibidem, p. 76