Oral Genealogy is Ephemeral

December 17th, 2007

“Narrators narrate what audiences call for or will tolerate. When the market for a printed book declines, the presses stop rolling but thousands of copies may remain. When the market for an oral genealogy disappears, so does the genealogy itself, utterly.” (66).

This is certainly logical in consideration of the printed word. When the call for a given text declines or subsides, it remains, since it is a tangible form. Conversely, an oral genealogy will vanish if the need and the members to carry it on are gone. However, this is not the case with digital orality Read the rest of this entry »

Conservative and/or Traditionalist

December 2nd, 2007

“Oral societies must invest great energy in saying over and over again what has been learned arduously over the ages. This need establishes highly traditionalist or conservative set of mind that with good reason inhibits intellectual experimentation. … By storing knowledge outside the mind, writing and, even more, print downgrade the figures of the wise old man and the wise old woman, repeaters of the past, in favor of younger discoverers of something new.” (Orality and Literacy, 41).

Similarly, Eric Havelock writes (as quoted in O&L):

“The text frees the mind of conservative tasks, that is, of its memory work, and thus enables the mind to turn itself to new speculation (Havelock 254-305). (41).

Essentially, primary orality remained traditional out of necessity. Read the rest of this entry »

Redundancy … repeated … again.

November 29th, 2007

Continuing the conversation regarding redundancy or repetition (from 11.21.07), this concept can be seen as a large difference in the digital orality and new media psyche, quite separate from the writing psyche.

“Since redundancy characterizes oral thought and speech, it is in a profound sense more natural to thought and speech than is sparse linearity. …. Eliminating redundancy on a significant scale demands a time-obviating technology, writing, which imposes some kind of strain on the psyche in preventing expression from falling into its more natural patterns” (Orality and Literacy, 40).

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s on the Telly? – Navigation and Control of our Content

November 27th, 2007

In a primarily oral culture, there is no way to record and recall a speech or oral performance. As Ong, Heim, and others have detailed, this is the reasoning for the structured, rhythmic nature of the oral epic. It was just not possible for the human mind to organize and remember a detailed, complex story without some form of mnemonic method applied.

The only way to reproduce a speech or orl performance would be to apprentice with the speaker, going off of his (rarely her) memory and rhythmic prompts to get the speech down and by repeating many times over the tale. However, beyond the use of writing to record these speeches, there came a point where writing was used as its own tool to produce creative works. Read the rest of this entry »

Redundant or Copius – Backlooping

November 21st, 2007

“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 »