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I don't agree that the common conception of objects does not create community. It was one of the purposes of this illustration from my point of view. Is not to show that the community of General Motors automobile owners is held together in the same way in which the members of the First Church of Cambridge were held together. No but rather to suggest that in the same forest people are held together in our society. Their characteristic ways in which they are held together are ways as at table weighted as this that the carbon consumption of objects has become one of the principle. Kinds of shared experience that people have in our society that whether or not you believe this is this is a strong experience or not. It is a kind of experience which was not possible in an earlier age
for example until you had the development of advertising and the development not to mention mass production interchangeable parts and the growth of brand new means which is very important in this connection now. One of the important things about advertising as a salesman. If you go into a shop and have a shop on Bond Street and window and sat like a pair of shoes like that. When one person let themselves and so on the south you made to think the appeal of this will be that they are made specially for you. They are accustomed to specially for you. Now the salesman the focus of the salesman is to persuade a person that the object is well-designed for him and
individuation the demand is very important now. Advertising however is the theology or the sermon community. Then you'll read an ad directed to thousands of people. You can be confident that if you buy that it is an object in the consumption of which you will be sharing an experience with thousands of other people reading that ad that is advertising then and we all know that good salesmanship is being displaced that dozens and dozens of them is becoming less and less important. Advertising has been becoming more and more important in merchandising and advertising is appealing to the first lady at the same time persuading people that they should purchase something and announcing to them that they are joining a consumption community. They're joining with a lot of other people and when they
know the result of these groups which I then call them are very much overlapping together. But my point is as much in the thinness of the time as it is existence at the time it was quite a step to be called a visible saint in the New England church. People labored with parents in all kinds of things. But as you've got. Let me see if I can hitchhike on Professor Simon's question I'm still not satisfied with the kinds of answers we're coming up with here as I see it that one of the differences between the collectivity of people who buy Wrigley's gum and the people who belong to the first church is a matter of interaction in the meaningful social groups we're
in there is social interaction. The fact that it seems to me what you're saying is that our greater awareness of categories and norms competes with the number of meaningful interacting groups know what evidence is there that we belong to a few are meaningful interacting groups than the Puritans. Even though we have the norm consciousness even though we have a greater awareness of categories this is what one thinks. I would extend the concept of group work. People do not interact with one another because living too far apart but who have a sense of shared identity common destiny or what have you willing to extend the concept to include people who may not physically but I have difficulty Yes.
Extension is where you were you were taken by opportunity's. And also by the declining importance of ideology I don't know how many people there are in here who've joined a particular church because of its theology and ladies but this is not common in our society. Doesn't mean it's not a meaningful attachment. Maybe more meaningful variable is yours because of some other reason. But I think there's an increasing tendency to treat church membership itself as a kind of consumption community in many areas it is terms that people go to within the limits of Protestantism we always have separate but Boston.
Say within ecumenical particular church that an American who happens to own the neighborhood considerations and also almost consumption with the church has the best basketball or social facilities and so on. And the growth of the supermarket is going right along with the community which is a place where people can go shopping in front on the war. I have having some difficulty getting hold of all of this too in part because I suppose I perhaps myself talk about many of the same problems but slightly different. Slightly different kind of language and I think that what Professor sign was raising
was the psychological reality of these kinds of communities do we experience them. You know as as involving ourselves. I'm a 37 short assume so I've been statistic a long list but that has relatively little reality to me. On the other hand when we start talking about communities and using in a more traditional sense we are using and profess some suggest that as some membership in a group of people that have bound together because they share attitudes and sentiments and values and that the group in a certain sense provides them people then with some kind of standards by which they may judge experience may categorize or deal with it make judgments about it and see that the traditional kinds of communities into which people have placed themselves in the past ethnic communities and religious ones. Perhaps to some degrees regional communities in the case of New England the South was perhaps
of two that I know of have simply lost their capacity to provide people with any kind of meaningful of density. They dissolved in this sense they lose the capacity to provide people with standards and experiences by which they may join. Themselves as a result of that they come to rely upon many other kinds of categories that have provided outside of this particularly categories I think of which are developed by science by the social sciences. But these these categories are you know under achiever I suppose is one way that a person can be categorized that it can't have a stack can have a psychological reality in the sense that when a person realizes he is a part of that group it can feed back on himself and influences behavior in the sense that he has his own thing. But most of the kinds of categories that we fit ourselves into do
not have much capacity to integrate our experience. Of ourselves and do they have this more dissolving kind of characteristic. And I presume this is what is meant by when people speak no of identity problems or of finding themselves and perhaps the quest of finding oneself is the quest for the holy grail of this generation the sign off of the many people of this town. The very fact that the question has to be raised means that it won't be solved. You have to go looking for it I was on one level I find it fun but I do think that there is something to be said. I do think that people do have identity problems because of the disintegration of the historical categories through which in terms of which people have come to understand their experience of themselves and in fact there has been provided for people no alternative sources places to answer these questions
and certainly universities don't once in providing those things. See I don't think in the long run this inverse King will be right that we will we have divided ourselves in the face on arms and that this is where our next hour. I think primarily just the technology and particularly to the economic system. Let me give you an example. I sat in with a group of a couple of them who are very concerned about the future of books published in the business and they far see a complete revolution in the book
production and marketing just in that books were no longer be produced. In addition dot will be turned into a computer. Assimilate it. I want to buy a book in champagne. There will be a distribution center someplace in this area and a button will be pushed down and the book will be printed form. This is not an impossibility. It's already being done in limited areas in medical information that is received from one sense folks are all the information killer stuff in the medical area which has been stored in there. This is going to accelerate from satellites or other places so that each of us will have customized information serve
we well get all of me back which we are interested in not that somebody else one so we can punch in and get 10 minutes of information on agriculture. And we're just in politics where we get 15 minutes on the office of the president. Well this is bound to subdivide half of those people who have those particular interests when I'm reading newspaper now. There are many parts of that newspaper that I'm not interested but I read it for some peculiar resume I have become. At least I have that much community with the people who are actually interested who support that under the new technology I can see that people are going to be continually fragmented by so looks a thing to themselves. Only those subjects and those things that they are specifically interested in and therefore form a tightly knit group. If you have been talking about.
Yes I do and I'm encouraged that absolutely I'm getting sick of the fact that no I indicated that I'd be sending the question by your son too much so I would like to just to think and suggest you have a feeling you see that people say that there's a reluctance to accept this possibility because it seems outlandish yet that people should be what we are used to communities to gather news of people coming from a shared beliefs from shared ancestry from common history and so on that when it becomes possible for people or even necessary for people to be held together by such flimsy threat as the advertising that they tend to believe or they object that they choose for the automobile that they drive. We are repelled by this. We find it hard to
accept this possibility but I think that this goes along with with that which the point was to Professor Kerry was making with the dissolution of the other standard so many of the groups to which we have in the past looked for the norms for imperatives. Have to provide us this. I mean very few of us get to our churches for the imperatives of our condo and look to our schools as the schools become more and more neutral on all sorts of question mark question. So where do we look. Well maybe we can look for mines. And this is one of the reasons perhaps why we have this feeling of disorientation that we have the feeling of togetherness that one holds us together is in orienting that it doesn't give us the satisfaction which we are accustomed to get
from those agencies which have in the past on this together. Yes. I mean just the concept of sectional differences when you're in Mississippi and you have the disc jockey speaking with a big crowd of even more of a tone of voice when you're with the players in the same thing in Boston you're going to pop in you're the person on the radio at this time talking that way in the same way that you are in Time magazine in the east. And if you're down there and how much you know difference is still you know they're there with a cause that they will be surviving the future will they just sort of disappear standardisation. Well that's an interesting question and a good question I think so there are certain simpler aspects to it in relation to the spoken language for
example. One thing has been widely noticed and that is that the growth of Motion Pictures and then later radio and television has had a marginalizing effect on the spoken language. There's we have the facts which 20 years ago noticed that it tended to lead people in England to speak more like Americans. Inevitably because such a large proportion of their movies came from this country you have the phenomenon that most kind of don't like it both ways but the general tendency of the media I think has been toward removing regional differences in the spoken language. Now obviously regionalisms survived from the beginning one of the characteristics of American civilization has been a tendency to embrace or minimize regional differences in language and this was noticed
when it would come to this country that there was more difference between the speech of a Yorkshireman and someone from London. There was between someone and someone who spoke and there was a churning up of these accents in this country. That's as to the language. Other regional differences to the customs of region is one of the growth of canning and preserving of modern techniques of preserving which include the development of canning and refrigeration and more recently freezing and dehydration have tended to assimilate the diets to remove seasonal differences and there used to be a time of course when you can only have a particular vegetable
or spice that no longer is true. So just as we have removed the differences between winter and summer and reduced those differ considerably so we have reduced the regional differences. Let's call pizza places. It's impossible to get hot biscuits even in the south. The influence of technology and technology just this general impact of quantification in scientific Asian market research into what the factors have done is make us more conscious of social categories. That is we now have all different kinds of way of cutting off the call. We now have MIT we have down of men in gray flannel suit women in village of clothes and so forth. But I would argue and I saw myself as that I'm taking what I
recognize as the conservative view and that is I don't think that in terms of a sense of community or a sense of suckage or social reality I don't think that people should values experience with people and I think of one piece of data that may help me with this. World War 2 when you. Why were they fighting. In fact they talked to one's body talked about one of the in their immediate platoon. What have you talked about what I think. Kind of talk they didn't talk about all this fighting or some kind of
and I'm sure others find that. I think the idea that the sense of peace comes not from consumption but I don't like this. Witness pretty well. Get together Monday Wednesday and Friday to discuss what happened on the latest day watching this because there are very strong. Never thought of it as a very strong product to be soberness with the sort of the grandmother involved. One doesn't want to solve our numbers by proper.
Grammar. I think it's kind of the situation you find of the situation also when people hold on to the forms of the old shared experience. You no longer can participate in the experience like paternal organizations whereas once they were pledged to friendship and referred in the nerves and things like that feeling pretty well this is no longer there. They're using a foreigner confirmation of the church when these little 13 year olds are committed to healing. Interesting that the social scientists have identified these lesser here as taking research by these various categories. But you don't feel that there is any cohesion in these categories. Not in the consuming but I think there's less and something that
others are the ones of identify these things. Jim I just wanted to say and this was a great one is that when you asked the question in in the society which is which is very large a very poor List think in many ways if we start thinking of people in terms of the occupational categories of the way we can divide them up. You raise a question what are the experiences we have all had in common that one can count upon one finds out that the experience of the mass media of Motion Pictures and Television programs is a significant part of what of what we have in common and hence the phenomenon that all sorts of parties of not only talking of about the old radio programs but indeed discussing this kind of experience that we have have now to belong with other people to be identified with them because we've all seen Gone With The Wind chill out. Something like this is a rather thin kind of tissue as has been pointed out by first of course in a number of
occasions it's not a subset of a substantial way to if. If we mean by a density and belonging to a group in a community to answer the question Who am I and what do I represent. It's very hard to to answer it this way. I think people frequently now seize upon occupation to say I'm a physicist or a sociologist as a way of answering the question which other categories previously had but even these occupations become so narrow and specialized that they also sail I think to be psychologically satisfying and it like animals like Allah just perceive in the in the part. If I perceive it all correctly many of them seem to be wrestling with this. Listening to the many kinds of responses you can make to it you can reject the pious and seize on a political movement and say I'm a radical. You know you become a hippie. You can try to make some kind of a commitment to join something some some new kind of group that answers much more than the question of being a member of a consuming group but
give some direction and value an attitude that can be significantly here. I'm going to give her source in the last word that we're going to have to draw this to a close right away would you like to respond to this. Pretenders. That comment I think is a point on it one point I would like to make now which I think is relevant to which I am aware whenever I try to entertain an idea I think that we tend to resist ideas in one way we have a resistance is to assume that the new idea must be a substitute for the bean. Well I'll just give you one example. People say to television is bad because it keeps kids from reading you have a new Therefore most displays they are obedient hypothesise.
The facts belie this and suggested to people why their kids watch television more and more now. I think that they believe that force must displace another is misleading. And I have not meant to suggest that the attenuated kinds of groups that people don't love their families anymore and they hate their coreligionists and so on and so on and so on. But I mean to suggest that they're the remnants and they become relics in many cases appendixes of what used to be these affiliations. In addition to the togetherness. And together they may be a symptom perhaps they may by their mere presence because people only have a certain amount of
loyalty or a sense of affiliation so less of it then remains for our family of our religion for our nation for whatever. So that I would just add to the notion that thing we can be confident of in history is the unexpected. And in order to entertain that possibility we must accept the further possibility that the unexpected is always added to the fact. You have been listening to a discussion of a lecture by Daniel J Boston professor of American history at the University of Chicago entitled The culture of communication. This lecture and discussion were part of the University of Illinois Centennial symposium sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on our next program Peter Viereck professor of European and Russian history at Mount Holyoke College will
Man and the multitude
Daniel J. Boorstin discussion, part two
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University of Illinois
WILL Illinois Public Media
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents the second part of a discussion of Daniel J. Boorstin's lecture, "The Culture of Communications."Additional speakers include Rita Simon, James W. Carey, H.E. Gulley, all of University of Illinois; and Fred S. Siebert, Michigan State University.
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A lecture series commemorating the centennial of the University of Illinois.
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Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
Speaker: Gulley, Halbert E.
Speaker: Boorstin, Daniel J. (Daniel Joseph), 1914-2004
Speaker: Simon, Rita J. (Rita James), 1931-2013
Speaker: Carey, James W.
Speaker: Siebert, Fred S. (Fred Seaton), 1902?-1982
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-41-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:54
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Chicago: “Man and the multitude; Daniel J. Boorstin discussion, part two,” 1967-10-31, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 6, 2023,
MLA: “Man and the multitude; Daniel J. Boorstin discussion, part two.” 1967-10-31. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 6, 2023. <>.
APA: Man and the multitude; Daniel J. Boorstin discussion, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from