McLuhan reverses our intuition about sound + vision

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We tend to think of visual information as instantaneous or simultaneous, and audio as time-based, linear, successive. I do, at any rate.

To underscore this assumption, let's say I'm reviewing a designer's portfolio. I can "read" a visual image almost in a moment -- I make a snap judgement much like that analyzed in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink.

I see a cassette, video tape, quicktime file, or what have you, however, and its a different story -- I know I need to make a time investment. I immediately have expectations for what I want to get out of it. Call it experience economy "ROI". Actually, Bruce Sterling, who incidentally will be speaking at OCAD on October 2 (yes, you heard right), puts it best in Shaping Things: he says in an age of 'Gizmos', our relationship with objects is governed by the "opportunity costs" and "cognitive load" of the user.

Anyway, back to McLuhan. In the Playboy interview (see link below) and everywhere else in his writing, he puts it this way:

"The man of the tribal world led a complex kaleidoscopic life precisely because the ear, unlike the eye, connot be focused and is synaesthetic rather than analytical and linear. Speech is an utterance, or more precisely, an outering, of all our senses at once; the auditory field is simultaneous, the visual successive." (Mcluhan's 1969 interview in Playboy)

This seems striking. I understand and agree with McLuhan, yet my portfolio judging example above tells me the opposite. In some way, both readings must be true.