“WHO-O-O is it?”

April 26, 2008 at 10:07 pm 3 comments

After seeing the title of this post and the video grab above, did you involuntarily say to yourself, in a tough New Yawk accent, “It’s the plumber. I’ve come to fix the sink”?

If you did, then you are the reason for this blog post.

In case you don’t know, the above picture is from an animated sketch featured on the old PBS children’s show, “The Electric Company.” (You can refresh your memory by watching the video on YouTube. And does the plumber really die at the end?)

In an earlier post titled “What creates community?” I said that shared stories create community, and that sharing happens when people experience the same happening. And although I edited it later, I originally said:

A group of individuals sitting at home watching the same show on separate televisions does not create community.

My dear wife read my post and gently took me to task. Not that unceasing television watching is an automatic good, but she reminded me that among people of our generation, growing up in the late ’70s, there is a certain kind of odd shared TV heritage.

In fact, all through the 20th century, there were different low-culture activities that you pretty much enjoyed alone — such as radio and TV shows, sports and movies — but then could talk about with your friends later.

And yes, books count too, Harry Potter fans.

As with any thing else, overuse of television cuts you off from friends, because you’re spending time that should be social time staring at the screen. But as my wife said, “Television actually can help you make connections with strangers.” Because then you have a shared experience with other people who root for the Colts, are addicted to “Lost” or still struggle with the hallucinogenic effects of watching too many Sid and Marty Krofft shows.


Entry filed under: community, Jon Swerens, Philosophy. Tags: , , .

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  • 1. Anthony Juliano  |  April 27, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    [Good post over at The Good City about the ways in which a shared media experience helps create community. While today’s unlimited choice is a boon to media consumers, it comes with a big trade off: we have increasingly less in common with others…]

  • 2. Jeff  |  April 28, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Your wife is brilliant! If you happen to be amongs strangers and you overhear someone talking about “The Princess Bride”, “Seinfeld”, or even the latest idiotic statement our President has made, you can make an immediate connection with them based on these television / movie experiences. In fact, I would go further and say that sometimes it’s all you can find in common with some when you have no other similarities. Sadly, television brings us together… 🙂

  • 3. Jon Swanson  |  April 29, 2008 at 10:04 am

    So. If in the same space doing different things doesn’t count (necessarily), is it possible to have community (shared stories, shared dialogue about those stories) if you are never in the same space but you are doing things together?

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