Marshall McLuhan on seeing what we hear
``What if he is right?'' This is what the movers and shakers wondered about Marshall McLuhan, according to Tom Wolfe when he was having fun writing about the Canadian media pundit. McLuhan became known for exploring, among other things, the electronic ``global village'' and the characteristics of a communications medium in relation to the message it conveys. Here is a commentary on seeing and hearing in a page reproduced from ``The Medium Is the Massage'' (1967), by Marshall McLuhan and designer Quentin Fiore, produced by Jerome Agel.
Most people find it difficult to understand purely verbal concepts. They suspect the ear; they don't trust it. In general we feel more secure when things are visible, when we can ``see for ourselves.'' We admonish children, for instance, to ``believe only half of what they see, and nothing of what they hear.'' All kinds of ``shorthand'' systems of notation have been developed to help us see what we hear.
We employ visual and spatial metaphors for a great many everyday expressions. We insist on employing visual metaphors even when we refer to purely psychological states, such as tendency and duration. For instance, we say thereafter when we really mean thenafter, always when we mean at all times. We are so visually biased that we call our wisest men visionaries, or seers!
Reminders -- (relics of the past) -- in a world of the PRINTED word -- efforts to introduce an AUDITORY dimension onto the visual organization of the PAGE: all effect information, RHYTHM, inflection, pauses. Until recent years, these EFFECTS were quite elaborate -- they allowed for all sorts of CHANGES of type faces. The NEWSPAPER layout provides more variety of AUDITORY effects from typography than the ordinary book page does.