A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Do you go outside to be alone?

Marshall McLuhan (March 10, 1972, age 60). You do if you’re American.

Remarkably, Americans go outside to be alone, while Brits go outside to be with others.  Americans find privacy in cars, restaurants and bowling alleys.  Brits find community in walks, coffee houses, and sporting events.


Me (May 2010, age 57).   Surely a curious thing?

This is an idea that McLuhan found extremely interesting.  And one he kept returning to and repeating as a precept beyond dispute.  In 2000 Robert Putnam published Bowling Alone, a best seller that assembled much evidence supporting the idea that Americans in the last quarter of the 2oth century have become “increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbours, and … democratic structures.”    Also interesting is that among other things Putnam attributes this growing disconnection to television.  This then would appear to be one of those curious ideas that McLuhan was onto much in advance of everybody else.

Do you go outside to be alone?


Cordially, Marshall and Me


Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 452.

Tags: , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

Leave a Reply