The Social/Rhetorical/Epistemic Situation of Audio-Visual Discussion

This post is in response to This comment, which essentially inquires as to the way in which elements of primary AND which elements of secondary orality play into:

  • Orally-based web 2.0 technologies;
  • Interpersonal relationships and the associated oral communication patterns;
  • People in front of the radio or around an orator versus the experience of having those relationships in a virtual environment;
  • Orality and epistemology; and
  • Oral communicative patterns.

Additionally, the comment acknowledges the freedom podcasts [and related audio-visual discussions] grant us in terms of when/where (portability) and inquires as to how such technologies meet the innate need to set new knowledge into social context.

Traditionally (primary orality), it was common for small groups to gather around an orator. It was conducive to members of the small audience to request clarification, ask questions, and create more of a discourse. Granted, the settings in which such orations occurred were varying, and the social, spatial, and even class situations might have inhibited such open discussion between orator and audience. Also, I do question what sort of prompts (actual or perceived) caused individuals to break the 1:many setting and make it more of a discourse. In other words, I am curious about the point at which the interruption occurs and what prompts it.

In some ways, this situation of the live orator is similar to (secondary orality setting of) those gathering around the radio in the 50s or around the television after that, particularly in the communication that occurred lateral to the media presentation. For example, when an individual is speaking in front of an audience( this includes current classroom settings) or a group is gathered around the radio or television, it is common for at least a few comments to be made from one audience member to another directly or in some cases just stated allowed, addressed to all. Whether such comments are insightful, heckling, acknowledging/refuting, or off-topic, there is a certain level of human/interpersonal/oral communication occurring.

When one is reading a text, working online, or listening/watching a presentation on an iPod/MP3-player, there is no communication similar to the settings noted above. Granted, any of these three examples have ways that the experience can be shared with more than one individual at once (in which case, such commentary can and usually does occur), but such settings are the rarity; generally these examples are experienced on an individual level.

However, this idea of audio-visual discussions does assimilate in the virtual environment some of these communication patterns, such as the interpersonal communication between audience members and interaction with the orator, which occur in the live setting, including the situation of a group of people gathered around a radio or television recording. Specifically, there is a new social context, social situation, and rhetorical situation formed by having the audio-visual discussions.

For example, I can record an online video to which one individual responds in video form. I can then respond to the comment and/or a third individual can comment. This third individual could be merely making a comment to the second individual about my topic or about my self or presentation. That third individual might also be joining the larger conversation established by the response of the second individual (and arguably is joining such regardless of to whom the comment is directed).

Of course, similar situations can happen textually and frequently do in the form of chat rooms, blogs, wikis, and even the textual comments add to online videos. These textual comments are not so dissimilar to that of the visual discussions and in many ways can serve similar purposes. The main difference is that in the textual for, it is still the unattached, independent, asynchronous individual contributing to a conversation. To this situation, the audio-visual discussion adds the human factor; one can see and hear the appearance, gestures, setting or the speaker, as if looking through a window or across a table. This ties directly to the rhetorical canon of Delivery and experiencing fully the orator and the rhetorical situation, as opposed to the partial situations of textual, purely audio podcasting, and even the downloaded video podcast, since it is unidirectional (one cannot comment on it).

Additionally, the audio-visual discussion also has the characteristic of semi-synchronous communication, which adds to the similarity to live discussion. It is the visual, audible interaction that cannot occur when personally experiencing a text, podcast (downloaded and experienced one-sided), or Web search. This is all very Web 2.0; it is interactive and each user has a certain amount of control over his or her experience and input.

Thus, the audio-visual discussion creates a new epistemological situation formed of the way we build and gain knowledge through:

  • Human interaction/discussion;
  • Web searches and links;
  • Internal reflective thought (planning responses);
  • Ongoing/branching discussions with multiple individuals; and
  • The archivable/recallable nature of online media.

This condition and rhetorical/social situation is the merging of the human orator (primary), the communication that can be experienced through an electronic medium (secondary), the common live discourse contexts we experience daily, the textual communications in which we engage on the Web, and an interactive Web 2.0 control. This condition affords us something not previously available. It is really something very different.

NOTE: While I acknowledge the argument, I am still not comfortable with the use of “tertiary orality” to refer to IM and chat situations, since they are not oral. However, I firmly support their communicative nature and, by extension, their role in helping to build this audio-visual discussion situation.

3 Responses to “The Social/Rhetorical/Epistemic Situation of Audio-Visual Discussion”

  1. Comment From Konnie on October 17th, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Just a brief comment at this time. After our phone conversation (voice talent and do forth), I pondered the term ‘visual discussion’ while listening to ‘All Things Considered’, unrelated, yet noteworthy, since I began considering things…

    Might the term ‘visual discussion’ be too restrictive for what you describe? In our past discussions and in your posts, the auditory aspect has been of utmost importance, really central to the topic. So allow me to suggest an amendment to the expanded ‘audio-visual discussion’ because it is the whole experience you relate to, encompassing the visual (body language, gesturing, facial expressions, etc.) as well as the auditory aspect of tone, pitch, intonation, projection, volume, etc. of the spoken words that distinguish it from the merely visual of, say, text. (Your words, really :-))

    In fact, you might need to expand the term even further to make a clear distinction to the type of conversation ocurring in IM tools, for example, with the emerging audio-visual features, such as ‘audibles’. I am really not sure if ‘audio-visual’ captures it adequately, and whether or not the use of the term in this way stands in conflict with already established terminology in the literature of rhetoric. It might have to become s.th. completely different, unused as of yet.

    Clearly, however, the definition of the term, and not its ultimate name, will be what guides further discussion.

  2. Comment From Konnie on October 20th, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Just came across an article, where researchers termed the author discussion page in Wikipedia (where editors of an article can discuss the content of the article) ‘documented discussion’. That aspect of ‘recording’ or ‘documenting’ or ‘archiving’ might also be an interesting addition to your term.

  3. Comment From Time Barrow on September 10th, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Whoa, just accepted this post (been sitting forever awaiting approval – I see 2 more I need to accept/address). The “documented discussion” definitely fits. One of the major points/features of this Online Video Conversation that I am presenting is that it is an archived discussion. In some way, many of these terms will make it into my writings.

    Also, a bit tangential, but fitting for what you brought up: I have often looked on with raised eyebrow at the instructors that forbid their students to use Wikipedia in any way. While it is true that anyone can write anything there, that is really a benefit. Whereas any one can write anything on their own blog or Web site, wikipedia makes everyone a common author. In this way, it is like the largest, most widely-peer-edited resource available. If I see something on your site that I know is wrong, there is little I can do about it. But if I see something dubious in a Wikipedia article, I can update it, as can others of what I have written. Of course, I do not see it as the ultimate source, but particularly for those articles that have been out there a while and viewed by many people, the information should be mighty accurate. More to the point, wikipedia is an excellent primer or gate for people to get enough information to go on and research a topic in more traditional and reliable academic means.

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