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.

The reading public no longer exists.

Marshall McLuhan (January 12, 1973, age 61). Thousands of reading publics exist

When I was at Cambridge, in the 1930s, the library of the English School maintained displays of a small number of relevant books covering a variety of different fields.  Looking over the shelves I came away with the distinct idea that this was what you needed to know to know what was happening in history, poetry, or any other field.  Today however such an impression is an impossibility.  So much is being published – in America alone 39,000 books are published every year –  there cannot be a reading public only publics.  We read what we will and except for very modest area of overlap our reading separates us from one another.

Me (May 2010, age 57).   Thousands have become millions.

Every book club is a reading public.  Each blog has its reading public, some large, most small.

What are the implications?  Are programs like “Canada Reads” necessary to maintain a sense of community?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 462.

Deborah Hinton‘s post @ Communication Matters

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture, Technology, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to The reading public no longer exists.

  • Michael Edmunds says:

    For me ( and I think for McLuhan as well) he would want to look at who was propping-up such programs as Canada Reads. He was often looking over his shoulder for a Mason! Generally I see such efforts as Reading Canada as at best a do gooder reaction by some form of elitist (ie rear view mirror) thinking. “all at once-ness” creates a paradox of
    community (weren’t we all in Times Square on the week-end) and at the same time loneliness and isolation (in Times Sq. but each alone and helpless.)

    But there’s always Hockey Night in Canada for salvation.

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