What is Digital Orality?

November 11th, 2007

[Edited 11.15.2007] Digital Orality is a term I have applied to refer to the way we communicate now with technology using audio and video tools and methods. In many of my past blog posts and notes, I’ve used the acronym AVNM (Audio Visual New Media) to refer to new media, such as podcasting, vodcasting, blogcasting, Skype, Voip, etc. I have, however, a few issues with this term. First, it should really be “audio and/or visual,” since some of the tools and applications to which I apply this term use sometimes just one or sometimes both audio and visual media. Also, abbreviating audio visual as AV, makes me recall K-12 educational filmstrips (OK, maybe that one’s just me).

I will acknowledge that one could also extend this category to include written media, such as blogs, Instant Messenger (IM), and email, since they are still verbal communication (as opposed to non-verbal communication) and therefore are a form of orality. However, I do not support this application of the term, largely because placing these writing type of media and pod/vodcasting and other audio and visual media into one big group is to break with Ong’s perspective that they are two very different elements, tools, and forms of communication. [Thanks to John Walter for helping me work through this one].

Admittedly, I sort of tried to avoid the term, it seems a little to sexy, hip, and non-academic in some ways. However, it is accurate, it encompasses all of the communication methods I noted above, it follows Walter Ong’s discussions of our transmissions from primary oral cultures through each milestone to electronic orality, the point where Ong left us. I find this a necessary step and condition to establish, since it is really the essence of my larger research and dissertation focus.