Acoustic Space

While collaborating in the journal ‘Explorations’ during the 1950s, Marshall McLuhan and Edmund Carpenter coined the term Acoustic Space to characterize communication within the oral tradition. In contrast to spaces configured by literate communication, in acoustic spaces people receive signals from all directions all at once:  “Auditory space has no favored focus. It’s a sphere without fixed boundaries, space made by the thing itself, not space containing the thing. It is not pictorial space, boxed-in, but dynamic, always in flux, creating its own dimensions moment by moment.” A celebrated prophet of the then upcoming electronic and digital culture, McLuhan suggested that, since the advent of electrically configured information, acoustic spaces may come to structure our senses again. Nevertheless, this electronic flood was not achieved through the abandonment of linearity nor pictorial spatiality, but through their simultaneous combination by introducing senses other than vision into play. In the same way that mechanical images gained movement through acoustic aesthetic resources, electronic images opened the possibility of the constant reversal between time and space. That is, transforming a sequential line into an acoustic space and into a line back again, by introducing the notoriously a-reflexive sense of touch.