personal niche vs common ground
i just read a chapter of a book by john mcphee, in which he talks about our ever-shrinking reservoir of common references. he discusses a writing class he conducted in a high school where his granddaughter was a student. there were nineteen students in the class, and he asked them to raise their hands if they knew, or had heard of, a list of names and cultural references. nineteen hands shot up at the mention of time magazine, muhammad ali, denver, mexico, hamlet, and winston churchill. only eighteen knew about sarah palin, omaha, barbra streisand, or rolls royce. and on down the list. fort knox: 15. elizabeth taylor: 11. cassius clay: 8. norman rockwell, truman capote, joan baez: 5. Laurence Olivier: 1. Calabria, Jackie Gleason, Jack Dempsey, George Plimpton, Samuel Johnson, Bob Woodward: 0. in the end he concludes that this shrinking pool of common references is happening, but that it has also always been happening, as the world has gotten more and more complicated, and we have been segregated further and further into our personal niches of likes, dislikes, and areas of knowledge. i don’t have a particular conclusion. on one hand we are losing a method of connecting to each other. on the other hand, there are more and more people able to bring us interesting news from their area of specialty. i think if we stay walled off, this is a bad thing, and if we remain curious and open, it isn’t the worst thing. does it matter how many of you know that these beach stones with holes in them are called hagstones? well, now you know. your turn: share something interesting from your world.
beach rocks with holes in them (aka hagstones)