Towards an Understanding of the Analogical and Digital interface in Architecture by Means of Communication and Cultural Theory
In Siegfried Giedion’s last text entitled, Architecture and the Phenomena of Transition, he traces the evolution of Western architectural space-conceptions from Antiquity to Modernity. In turn, Gideon’s work influenced the cultural theorist Marshal McLuhan (McLuhan 1962, 44), who developed a media-structuralist account of the Western evolution of space-conceptions but, in terms of media effects on human senses, sensibility and consciousness. McLuhan referred to the pre-Socratic perception of space as ‘acoustic space’, which engages perception synesthetically (a ratio of all the senses in interplay) at a human scale; i.e. as an embodied consciousness. However, since Antiquity, a Western space-conception evolved which he describes as ‘visual space’; the result of the abstraction of the eye from synesthesia or the dominance of the eye over the other senses. This sensibility, or spatial bias, was conditioned by the evolution of the phonetic alphabet environment (a medium that extends the eye) which fostered a progressively analytical mechanical worldview in the West. However, during the 19th century, with the invention of electric communications (a medium that extends the nervous system) and, eventually with the emergence of wired connectivity and information technology, McLuhan again characterised our post-modern space-conception as ‘neo-acoustic’; i.e. a digitally amplified space and concomitantly extended perception characterized as virtual synesthesia. Post-Modern neo-acoustic space is a side-effect of the electronic extension of our nervous system and brain which constitutes the environmental surround facilitating human communication within the ‘Global Village’. Today, we more and more live in a networked world (wired and wireless) sustaining individual and collective consciousness by means of disembodied images, or virtual simulacra; that is, a social reality in which consciousness is constituted of sensory images generated in real-time communication of information processing and programming. In particular, McLuhan’s media studies enhance one’s awareness of the cultural formation of spatial biases conditioned by technological environments. During our pre-alphabet (acoustic space) and phonetic alphabet (visual space) traditions, these respective cultures fostered conceptions of architectural space and form grounded in physical or analogue extensions of the human body. With the emergence of an electronic neo-acoustic space, or cyberspace, whereby synaesthesia is mediated digitally at the scale of a global surround, our body image, or paper identity tends towards the discorporeal. We are living between dual or hybrid influences of embodied and discarnate acoustic spaces, which foster new conceptions and approaches in architectural design. Architectural conceptions of visual space, acoustic space and neo-acoustic or cyberspace will be explored in this paper.