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 know the people around you?

Marshall McLuhan (December 9, 1963, age 52). Someone should study this!

Have you noticed that there are a great many people in the organization you work for that you don’t know?  Our organizations appear to be organized to wall people off, to separate them, not to bring them together.  For example, it was only when I went to Brandeis University, in Waltham, Massachusetts, to give a talk at Maurice Stein’s invitation that I met Jack Seeley who teaches psychology at Toronto University.  At Toronto, Seeley and I never meet!  He is a delightful chap.  A related phenomenon is our neglect of the famous places where we live.  Casa Loma is a great tourist attraction here in Toronto and is located quite close to where I Iive.  Yet, I’ve never seen it!  I wonder why?

Me (February 2010, age 57).  I wonder

This is the type of observation McLuhan delighted in.  And it has a ring of truth.  Organizations today do seem to be organized to separate people, to isolate them, to have them work in silos.  Head offices have been relocated from city centers to isolated suburban parks.  Open office cubicles enable management to monitor office workers and at the same time separate them.  Elevators are places to avoid conversation.  The language of business, larded as it is with euphemisms, acronyms, and clichés, by increasing the level of abstraction supports the maintenance of distance between people.  Can you truly be engaged working with people you do not know?

Have you ever met someone you did not know who works for the same organization that you do while travelling on business or on holiday? How many people do you actually know in your organization?  Is your organization doing anything to strengthen relationships among employees?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p.294.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, February 27th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

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