Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spaced Out

So, one of the fundamental distinctions in the media ecology of Marshall McLuhan, Edmund Carpenter, Tony Schwartz, and related to that of Walter Ong and Edward T. Hall, is the distinction between acoustic space and visual space. This concept first appears in an article that McLuhan and Carpenter publish in their Explorations journal in the fifties, and reprint in their anthology Explorations in Communication, sadly long out of print.

Visual space is the sense of space that we have become accustomed to over the past five centuries or so, as it is the sense of space associated with literacy, especially alphabetic literacy and the habits of reading that go along with that, and intensified by print media--McLuhan particularly emphasized the fact that our eyes were trained to use a fixed point of view, a form of vision that does not come naturally to us. Visual space is also the sense of space that has its roots in Euclidean geometry with its linear, and rectilinear bias, is associated with the development of perspective in art during the Renaissance, and is linked to Newton's notion of absolute space.

It's worth noting here that Alfred Korzybski associated his non-Aristotelian system of general semantics with non-Euclidean geometry and non-Newtonian (Einsteinian) physics just as electric technologies and media were shifting our sense of space away from the visual and back to the acoustic. That is a wave of change that we are still riding today.

So, it was a pleasure to come across this charming YouTube video that parodies the Mac vs. PC commercials to provide a pithy introduction to the concepts and distinctions between acoustic and visual space. And they did it for a media ecology class--how cool is that? Well done, guys!

Oh, and if you want to go see them in their native habitat, here's the link: I'm Acoustic Space And I'm Visual Space.

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