“Thought requires some sort of continuity. Writing establishes in the text a ‘line’ of continuity outside the mind. If distraction confuses or obliterates from the mind the context out of which emerges the material I am now reading, the context can be retrieved by glancing back over the text selectively. …. In oral discourse, the situation is different. There is nothing to backloop into outside the mind, for the oral utterance has vanished as soon as it is uttered.” (Orality and Literacy, 39).
Ong’s point in this passage is certainly true. The written passage allows readers to backloop to reread any section if they did not understand it or even if their minds wandered while reading. Such an ability to retrieve or re-experience the content is not possible in a live setting, short of requesting the speaker repeat the seemingly lost statement or section (a condition rarely possible in a public setting).
However, the communication methods in digital orality replace this downfall. Read the rest of this entry »