Connecting the Jotts to PlatoPosted by Time Barrow on July 30th, 2008
Categories: digital orality, Written to Oral
In past posts, I have established digital orality as relevant to the way we communicate using non-textual (largely oral), computer-mediated communication forms, such as podcasting and vodcasting. I have juxtaposed this concept to writing, noting the differences between the two and why communicative writing tools, such as IM and Chat cannot be forms of digital orality. I have been careful to not form a binary (“orality vs. writing”), since one of the foundational points I want to examine is how the two interact in given situations and media. However, looking at the many forms of communication media and trends that arise seemingly weekly, I question how something like Jott fits in with this structure.
Jott is tool used to turn spoken word into transcription. Essentially, one speaks into a phone (or computer microphone) and Jott automatically transcribes the message and emails it to the account on file. There is not a human on the other end; it is all automated, and it is amazingly accurate. Jott does require one to manually add contacts on the Web site (in a personal account), but once there, Jott messages can be sent to anyone in the address book from a phone. More useful (at least to me) is that I can send messages to myself. About 93% of what I use Jott for is to send myself messages, ideas, reminders, etc. The messages are transcribed and sent directly to both my phone and my email account. It is important to note that with the textual transcription is also a link to an audio recording. So, while the receiver can read it (the main point of Jott), so too can he or she listen to the original recording.
While usually quite accurate, I clean up the writing a bit and then use that text as needed: to expand on ideas, create blog posts, and to remember resources, plans, and other information. In this way, it is similar to an answering machine, to texting, to the old personal recorders… only it transcribes for the speaker. Also, one can connect Jott to Twitter, Facebook, or ample other social media tools so one can create written blog posts, tweets, etc., orally (over the phone). The remainder of this blog post in based entirely on Jott messages I sent to myself about Jott.
In the larger discussion of digital orality, how does Jott relate? Is it an example of digital orality as I have defined it? Surely Jott is oral; however, the form in which it is received is textual. When I speak into Jott, I’m orating directly to make a written transcription of my statement/speech in a textual form, but it’s direct and, assuming it is accurate, unchanged.
Plato dislikes the concept of writing and the practice of writing because it assimilates voice/orality which assimilates thought. So, primarily, the root of the topic is in thought. That’s the genesis of a text or speech; it is in thought. Therefore, when I orate a statement, that’s coming directly from me, and it’s not quite as accurate as my own thought, since I could never express it a 100% as well orally. However, it is a step better than writing, according to Plato.
If, as Plato thought, writing is an assimilation of voice oration, which is an assimilation of thought, and I orate/speak into Jott, what comes out textually is a direct, and presumably accurate, transcription of my spoken word. Therefore, it is technically in textual form, but it was not written; it was spoken. Thus, it should still be seen as oral, one step back from writing, according to Plato’s concept.
However, the missing element of the transcribed oral statement, which separates it from the traditional speech, is the speaker’s voice intonation, pitch, volume, physical gesture, and appearance an audience would experience if the oration were live or on video; that is the difference. One cannot experience all that presence and humanness through a text. This concept relates closely to the rhetorical canon of delivery.
One of Plato’s issues with writing was that the text can’t answer for itself. While this is true of a recording, as well –it can’t answer for itself–the nature of a podcast often allows for ongoing immediate discourse. This is to say, just like with a blog, a viewer could post an immediate retort as a comment, agreement, or disagreement. Such a response to a published text, such as a journal or book, can occur, but it takes inordinately longer and there is no assurance that the response will actually be published or read.
So, is Jott a form of digital orality? Given the fact that it is oral in origin AND that it is transportable (comes directly to a handheld device as both audio and text), I contend it is. Of course this opens the door for much further research on my part, partly because it draws possible inclusion of many other digital orality examples that I had not previously considered too deeply, such as traditional transcription (courtroom, police) and direct closed captioning (that, which does not deviate remotely from the spoken word). As I examine these and other examples more deeply, I’ll expound on what media and tools should be excluded and included in the list and define the factors on which I make such placement decisions. In this way, I will expand, detail, and solidify the definition of digital orality.