Tertiary OralityPosted by Time Barrow on November 12th, 2007
Categories: digital orality
In some ways New Media (NM) and Digital Orality (see previous post What is Digital Orality?) are more examples in Ong’s concept of secondary oralities that are present in the electronic age, considering many new technologies, such as Voip and Tivo, are extensions of some tools to which Ong referred. In “Orality and Literacy,” (1982) Ong wrote:
“Our Understanding of the difference between orality and literacy developed only in the electronic age, not earlier. …. The electronic age is also an age of ‘secondary orality’, the orality of telephones, radio, and television, which depends on writing and print for existence.” (pgs. 2-3).
Discussing the place of orality in New Media (NM), I considered whether we are now in place that is still part of Ong’s “secondary orality,” or if the advancements we’ve made place us in a post-secondary orality, a new and different level of orality to such an extent that it requires a new category. Ong wrote:
“I style the orality of a culture totally untouched by any knowledge of writing or print, ‘primary orality.’ It is ‘primary’ by contrast with ‘secondary orality’ of present-day high-technology culture.” (11).
Given the level of technology we had achieved in the early 1980s, including the power and use of computers, I find that our current condition does require a new category to discuss this state. We are now in a very different place than Ong’s secondary orality, yet it includes it. That is, although we are, in some ways, still in the electronic age and have not transcended that, we have really moved much further into what is now deemed the digital age. We still use telephones, radio, and television; however, not only are the ways we use those tools quite different than we did thirty years ago (when Ong wrote this), we are now communicating and receiving audio and visual entertainment in radically new ways.
Therefore, since NM is “the next thing” and it is present in a new age, I’ve determined the need for the new term, and that this Digital Orality is a tertiary orality, the next level of orality. I use the term “level” over something like step or phase, because this role of secondary and tertiary orality is not solely a chronological one. Rather, it is a level that transcends, yet includes, that which has come before it.