๐Ÿ“ป โ€” The McGurk Effect: How Our Audiovisual Experience Impacts Connection and Community

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Good morning yeniverse!

As usual, a few useful links for creators, business & community builders:

  1. Nodding heads. First amendment rights? Ban cars? Justin Kan on ethical leadership.
  2. Why kids hate writing. Discord at $130M in revenue. “I don’t get it.” Hopin goes $400M.
  3. Historic lows. Rethinking 10k hours. Wanker alert. Ooph. $400k from writing books.
  4. Be still my heart. Wuhoo? Community toolkit. Elenas. Paying for news.
  5. Huawei is going to die. Ferris, Vitalik, Naval. Mobilecoin. TikTok bullying.
  6. Amazon’s cashflow. Adtech’s future. Mini cars, electric trucks. Webpages for API.
  7. American dream as a service. Epic buy. Mentorcam. Chitterchat. Hypto.
  8. OKRs, KPIs. Content triangle of BS. Not bad tips. Remember Tweetdeck?
  9. Creator economy and hospitality. Venture capital is fucked.
  10. Cheese: Banking for asians. Daily raises $15M. Songclip raises.

Have a good one folks!

To infinity & community,

โ€” john

I wanted to share a few high-level thoughts this morning on my personal design philosophy; or more specifically, some of the influences of thought (and science!) that has informed and influenced my thinking as we build a communication tool for creators, business, and community builders.

One of the questions that Iโ€™ve been asked many times is what I think about when it comes to the obvious and visible rise of video and audio-centric communities โ€” and, of course, the platforms that power them.

A poor but honest answer is that I donโ€™t have the vision that those founders have; instead, I have only my own empirical observations and data-driven analysis of the opportunities that the current market provides and how it matches with customer needs. I also think that itโ€™s strategically-important to always start with first-principles to what makes human communication work; a digital distillation of what is fundamentally true, for most (if not all) people.

I believe that text is, and has always been, the simplest and most effective form of communication; both a lubricant and universal scalable solvent. Hereโ€™s one specific reason why I believe that to be true.

The McGurk Effect is an audiovisual phenomena which effectively creates a multi-sensory illusion when you experience it.

It was first discovered by through audiovisual speech:

McGurk and MacDonald reported a powerful multisensory illusion occurring with audiovisual speech. They recorded a voice articulating a consonant and dubbed it with a face articulating another consonant.

Even though the acoustic speech signal was well recognized alone, it was heard as another consonant after dubbing with incongruent visual speech; this is a striking demonstration of multisensory integration. It shows that auditory and visual information is merged into a unified, integrated percept.

via NCBI

Neat, right? This is also the reason why it’s very hard to build audio or video-first platforms or even social networks for that matter because the user’s experience is dependent on their own level of audiovisual integration.

Consequently, what could have been a well-managed / curated and unified experience is now a multi-variate, user-dependent one that limits the ability for a system or technology to scale maximally.

This is why a focus on text is the singular, prime directive; it is the irreducible minimum, a simple, powerful, and unmistakable communication device that is the most responsible starting point for scale, technologically and financially.

You see, the “McGurk Effect” demonstrates that our eyes can influence what we hear and even “deceive” us into thinking and believing something entirely different. And with audio, we lose that critical component of scale and utility (although we can solve both of those but it’s pricey).

Here’s another great example:

Prof. Patricia Kuhl is mouthing the syllables /ga-ga/ while the dubbed video has her saying /ba-ba/. Your eyes are messing things up for us! They want to tell us that her lips aren’t closed at the beginning of the syllables โ€” and therefore she can’t be saying “ba” but that’s actually what she’s saying.

It’s a bit of a trip, right? Trying to reconcile this is hard as your brain works through a mental fist-fight between your eyes and ears.

Bottom-line: Things like the McGurk Effect can impact a user’s experience with a product, especially one that is as fundamentally important as a communication device for teams, organizations, and communities.

It’s worth giving this serious consideration when you’re building any product that helps folks communicate, connect, and build community. This is how we started and where we’re headed; I’d love to connect with other like-minded folks! Hit me up anytime.


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