Small Tables

How much does table size matter in your choice of coffee shop. I like to study and hang around, so big tables are fine with me… yet I understand how it might be more profitable to squeeze more (smaller) tables into a small coffee shop. Yet, there’s a statement of American culture in these big-table coffee shops that I like so much. Even when they’re crowded, nobody ever asks if they can join you at your table– they’d rather take the coffee for the road. In my experience, this wouldn’t be the case in many European countries. Perhaps we’re so used to having “our space” here, that we’re unwilling to take the chance of being anywhere near another’s space—especially when they’re a stranger.
Maybe “public spaces” don’t matter that much here unless there’s some sort of structure (like a club) to force interaction.


My first couple of posts were about the proliferation of media choices, and the possible need for an editor. I’ve been thinking more … maybe we’re (I’m) too lazy in this respect. Rather than pick up something difficult or “worthwhile,” it’s easier to plop down and watch something I’ve Tivoed. Rather than take the time to search for an awesome song, it’s easier to be lazy and have the radio select the music.
Maybe, maybe … being lazy isn’t such a bad thing.

Consumerism, Commons, and the Public Sphere

I just had an interesting thought (I’ll admit, while reading A Consumers’ Republic by Cohen). A typical argument for privatizing a commons, like a road, hospital, network, or a public space, is that it will improve if someone can a buck off of it. For example, while the post office once was a place for people to meet and discuss issues of local importance (see John, Spreading the News), another more modern equivalent might be the coffee house or book shop (or WalMart, or Barnes and Noble). Yet, it stands to reason that people hanging around a place like this talking for hours on end will not result in the establishment earning a maximum profit. Instead, the emphasis on “buying things” at locations may tend to divide people rather than bring them together — thus preventing much of a public sphere from forming. To clarify, the profit motive of consumerism seems like it runs so counter to the ideals of a commons, that it may have an impact on the formation of the modern public sphere. I’m struggling for a defense of public commons here.
Looks like it’s back to Bowling Alone in the Offentlichkeit.

A choice or a suggestion?

Another thing about “too much media” to experience. Browsing through iTunes looking for some music that’s appealing can be a tiring job. To what degree is it easier/better to get “suggestions” of what’s cool from a radio station (or even MTV)? Sure, there are playlists and podcasts that can help one dig up music, yet again they are nearly as numerous as the songs on them. Perhaps this is the essence of why editors are important. Even if a lot of truly good material is lost, it may be that an even greater amount of trash is filtered out.
Something must be said for the “thrill” of the hunt, but maybe I just want to experience only what matters to me.