Residually Cyclical Style 2

Continuing the conversation on Residually Cyclical Styles (the cyclical nature of orality and literacy), I realize the next (or most recent) cycle.

In Residually Cyclical Styles, I established–entirely based on Ong (OL, Chap. 3)– that early writing style was based on oral cultures; print was more-or-less based on early writing, such as the manuscript; and secondary orality was based on writing culture. So, not only is this the historical transition, and each communication method’s style has residual aspects of the preceding style, but this entire process is cyclical.

primary orality => chirographic/print => secondary orality

In The Style of Digital Orality, I went on to note that the style of podcasts often follows that of earlier media. For example, the way that a single podcast is organized and the speaking style of the podcaster is not unlike that of a radio program. This is pretty logical and even predictable considering the similarity of the media (relatively brief, single topic, one-to-(the unseen)many orations), and that many of the more popular podcasts actually are radio shows, such as those from NPR.

The next step in the process is that we have a new writing style, that is based on orality; the cycle continues. Consider the trend and genre of social networking tools, such as texting, IM, Twitter, etc. In general, these new media have limiting character capacities, allowing the user a mere 140 characters. While this condition tends to be out of necessity (or preference) of the hand-held tools we use to communicate, it creates the situation that we are communicating in small chunks of data not unlike the way we would in a normal, live, one-to-one conversation. So, while written, the communication style is more oral.

primary orality => chirographic/print => secondary orality => social networking

This situation actually opens many conversations, such as the debate on whether texting language is ruining (or at least affecting) our writing ability, what effects this is having on the way we communicate, and how these tools can be used effectively/productively in the workplace and classroom. I am quite interested in these topics and will continue this discussion, addressing many of these considerations on upcoming posts.

4 Responses to “Residually Cyclical Style 2”

  1. Comment From Konnie on October 8th, 2008 at 6:34 am

    couldn’t texting and ‘writing’ for other purposes be two completely different animals, ie not really affecting each other – almost like two different genres – hey is there a ‘texting’ genre?

  2. Comment From thbarrow on October 9th, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Yes, I would say texting is a genre. In the Into the Blogosphere article you turned me on to, “Blogging as Social Action: a Genre Analysis of the Weblog,” Carolyn Miller noted, “When a type of discourse or communicative action acquires a common name within a given context or community, that’s a good sign that it’s functioning as a genre.” In this way, texting, as a communicative action, can be seen as a genre.

    I definitely think texting and “other” writing are fully different animals. To be honest, of the three topics I noted (that I’ll talk about at a future point), the first one is not something I’ll get into too deeply. Actually, I’ll address it here: I do not believe that texting is ruining our writing ability (or that of our youth) or even affecting it. The main reason is the point you bring up; it is really a specific genre(yes) of writing for a specific purpose. It will not alter any ability to write an essay or a decent academic paper any more than writing poetry would alter it.

    Additionally, the ability to text well, including both being adept at typing on a handheld device and in communicating using the text abbreviations (e.g. lol, brb, bff, etc.), is really just learning a new skill and perhaps a new sort of language. Again, assuming the individual has some ability to write in an “other” form, there should be no more crossover. We are not concerned about receiving a student’s usability study or final paper in a haiku, why question the students’ ability to write in any other ‘secondary’ genre?

  3. Comment From Konnie on October 9th, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Agreed. Same in oral communication. Yelling at a football game, discussing politics with friends, talking to the pediatrician about your childrens’ health, presenting the a new idea at work, etc. – we do all of those things and one does not impair our ability to do the other. We not only hop genres with relative ease, we hop register, tone, possibly personality fluidly.

    We are able to learn new jargon (texting as a genre requires a specific jargon that identifies you as a ‘knower’ of the genre or, viceversa, exposes you as a newbie) with relative ease. Etiquette, in its loosest definition, has to be understood. Chatting, as yet one step closer to synchronicity, requires slightly different skills than texting. One has to be faster in one’s responses b/c it is now much more of an ongoing flow of conversation, that can speed up and slow down. If one takes too long to post a reply, the other person or persons might suspect you are doing s.th. else on the side (like checking email or browsing the Web), just as they would in a spoken conversation (like changing a light bulb in the hallway, while discussing dinner plans). What are the devices used to bridge a situation like that? Coming to the point I want to make: Have you looked at or done comparative syntactic analyses of recorded conversations vs. chat transcripts to find out how ‘oral’ a chat conversation is? Syntactic analysis could be a useful tool in determining the level of ‘oralness’ found in many of the new social media, especially those with higher levels of synchronicity.

    Returning to your idea of cyclic recurrence of orality: Are these media the ‘fitting response’ to an oral communicative exigence, that now gets expressed textually? Is this the answer to bridging geographic distance textually but using rules clearly based in orality, afforded by the new technologies?

  4. Comment From thbarrow on October 9th, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    As I’d like to address tis one with some depth, I’ve made a new post in response,

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