Close to the Human Lifeworld

Another characteristic of primary orality that Ong discusses is that it is close to the human lifeworld. This is to say that since they have no real way to structure information that can stand on it’s own, somewhat separated from human experience, “… oral cultures must conceptualize and verbalize all their knowledge with more or less close reference to the human lifeworld. …. Oral cultures know few statistics or facts divorced from human or quasi-human activity. … An oral culture likewise has nothing corresponding to how-to-do-it manuals for the trades…” (Orality and Literacy, 42-43).

Clearly, the points Ong makes here represent many advantages of chirographic and electronic culture. The existence of print allows us to record information in a way that is, to varying degrees, separate from the human life experience. We can write in more abstract and deeper terms that allow the reader to address ideas and more static information, such as lists, in a more objective manner. The electronic world with television and radio added to the ability to offer such abstract information as well, but generally with great production costs.

However, digital culture offers even more advantages to recording and communicating many types of information via different formats and methods, often at a very low cost. For example, one can create tutorials using interactive design methods, or even simple presentation software, that includes diagrams, examples, sound, visuals, etc. Beyond the “cool” factor that should be acknowledged as a draw that helps keep readers focused on the material, these methods offer more options in how to most precisely and accurately convey the information.This point also harkens back to the egalitarian nature of digital orality I’ve discussed in previous posts. With a computer and some relatively basic and inexpensive (even free) software, virtually anyone can produce a smooth tutorial, effective in presenting the information in a unique, interesting, and at a professional level.

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