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robertogreco : walterong   9

Ask Dr. Time: Orality and Literacy from Homer to Twitter
"So, as to the original question: are Twitter and texting new forms of orality? I have a simple answer and a complex one, but they’re both really the same.

The first answer is so lucid and common-sense, you can hardly believe that it’s coming from Dr. Time: if it’s written, it ain’t oral. Orality requires speech, or song, or sound. Writing is visual. If it’s visual and only visual, it’s not oral.

The only form of genuine speech that’s genuinely visual and not auditory is sign language. And sign language is speech-like in pretty much every way imaginable: it’s ephemeral, it’s interactive, there’s no record, the signs are fluid. But even most sign language is at least in part chirographic, i.e., dependent on writing and written symbols. At least, the sign languages we use today: although our spoken/vocal languages are pretty chirographic too.

Writing, especially writing in a hyperliterate society, involves a transformation of the sensorium that privileges vision at the expense of hearing, and privileges reading (especially alphabetic reading) over other forms of visual interpretation and experience. It makes it possible to take in huge troves of information in a limited amount of time. We can read teleprompters and ticker-tape, street signs and medicine bottles, tweets and texts. We can read things without even being aware we’re reading them. We read language on the move all day long: social media is not all that different.

Now, for a more complicated explanation of that same idea, we go back to Father Ong himself. For Ong, there’s a primary orality and a secondary orality. The primary orality, we’ve covered; secondary orality is a little more complicated. It’s not just the oral culture of people who’ve got lots of experience with writing, but of people who’ve developed technologies that allow them to create new forms of oral communication that are enabled by writing.

The great media forms of secondary orality are the movies, television, radio, and the telephone. All of these are oral, but they’re also modern media, which means the media reshapes it in its own image: they squeeze your toothpaste through its tube. But they’re also transformative forms of media in a world that’s dominated by writing and print, because they make it possible to get information in new ways, according to new conventions, and along different sensory channels.

Walter Ong died in 2003, so he never got to see social media at its full flower, but he definitely was able to see where electronic communications was headed. Even in the 1990s, people were beginning to wonder whether interactive chats on computers fell under Ong’s heading of “secondary orality.” He gave an interview where he tried to explain how he saw things — as far as I know, relatively few people have paid attention to it (and the original online source has sadly linkrotted away):
“When I first used the term ‘secondary orality,’ I was thinking of the kind of orality you get on radio and television, where oral performance produces effects somewhat like those of ‘primary orality,’ the orality using the unprocessed human voice, particularly in addressing groups, but where the creation of orality is of a new sort. Orality here is produced by technology. Radio and television are ‘secondary’ in the sense that they are technologically powered, demanding the use of writing and other technologies in designing and manufacturing the machines which reproduce voice. They are thus unlike primary orality, which uses no tools or technology at all. Radio and television provide technologized orality. This is what I originally referred to by the term ‘secondary orality.’

I have also heard the term ‘secondary orality’ lately applied by some to other sorts of electronic verbalization which are really not oral at all—to the Internet and similar computerized creations for text. There is a reason for this usage of the term. In nontechnologized oral interchange, as we have noted earlier, there is no perceptible interval between the utterance of the speaker and the hearer’s reception of what is uttered. Oral communication is all immediate, in the present. Writing, chirographic or typed, on the other hand, comes out of the past. Even if you write a memo to yourself, when you refer to it, it’s a memo which you wrote a few minutes ago, or maybe two weeks ago. But on a computer network, the recipient can receive what is communicated with no such interval. Although it is not exactly the same as oral communication, the network message from one person to another or others is very rapid and can in effect be in the present. Computerized communication can thus suggest the immediate experience of direct sound. I believe that is why computerized verbalization has been assimilated to secondary ‘orality,’ even when it comes not in oral-aural format but through the eye, and thus is not directly oral at all. Here textualized verbal exchange registers psychologically as having the temporal immediacy of oral exchange. To handle [page break] such technologizing of the textualized word, I have tried occasionally to introduce the term ‘secondary literacy.’ We are not considering here the production of sounded words on the computer, which of course are even more readily assimilated to ‘secondary orality’” (80-81).

So tweets and text messages aren’t oral. They’re secondarily literate. Wait, that sounds horrible! How’s this: they’re artifacts and examples of secondary literacy. They’re what literacy looks like after television, the telephone, and the application of computing technologies to those communication forms. Just as orality isn’t the same after you’ve introduced writing, and manuscript isn’t the same after you’ve produced print, literacy isn’t the same once you have networked orality. In this sense, Twitter is the necessary byproduct of television.

Now, where this gets really complicated is with stuff like Siri and Alexa, and other AI-driven, natural-language computing interfaces. This is almost a tertiary orality, voice after texting, and certainly voice after interactive search. I’d be inclined to lump it in with secondary orality in that broader sense of technologically-mediated orality. But it really does depend how transformative you think client- and cloud-side computing, up to and including AI, really are. I’m inclined to say that they are, and that Alexa is doing something pretty different from what the radio did in the 1920s and 30s.

But we have to remember that we’re always much more able to make fine distinctions about technology deployed in our own lifetime, rather than what develops over epochs of human culture. Compared to that collision of oral and literate cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean that gave us poetry, philosophy, drama, and rhetoric in the classical period, or the nexus of troubadours, scholastics, printers, scientific meddlers and explorers that gave us the Renaissance, our own collision of multiple media cultures is probably quite small.

But it is genuinely transformative, and it is ours. And some days it’s as charming to think about all the ways in which our heirs will find us completely unintelligible as it is to imagine the complex legacy we’re bequeathing them."
2018  timcarmody  classics  homer  literature  poetry  literacy  orality  odyssey  walterong  secondaryorality  writing  texting  sms  twitter  socialmedia  technology  language  communication  culture  oraltradition  media  film  speech  signlanguage  asl  tv  television  radio  telephones  phones 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Eight Theses Regarding Social Media | L.M. Sacasas
"1. Social media are the fidget spinners of the soul.

2. Each social media platform is a drug we self-prescribe and consume in order to regulate our emotional life, and we are constantly experimenting with the cocktail.

3. Law of Digital Relativity: Perception of space and time is relative to the digital density of the observer’s experience.

4. Affect overload is a more serious problem than information overload. The product of both is moral apathy and mental exhaustion.

5. While text and image flourish online, the psycho-dynamics of digital culture are most akin to those of oral cultures (per Walter Ong).

6. Just as the consumer economy was boundless in its power to commodify, so the attention economy is boundless in its power to render reality standing reserve for the project of identity construction/performance. The two processes, of course, are not unrelated.

7. In the attention economy, strategic silence is power. But, because of the above, it is also a deeply demanding practice of self-denial.

8. Virtue is self-forgetting. The structures of social media make it impossible to forget yourself."
michaelsacasas  2017  lmsacasas  socialmedia  virtue  forgetting  attention  attentioneconomy  economics  power  silence  self-denial  walterong  figeting  addiction  emotions  digitalrelativity  relativity  space  time  perception  experience  online  internet  affectoverload  apathy  exhaustion  infooverload  secondaryorality  oralcultures  images  text  commodification  identity  performance 
may 2017 by robertogreco
A place to talk | A Working Library
"
Today, we are witnessing the reemergence in electronic form of oral patterns that have been hiding in plain site for generations. So deeply ingrained is our cultural disposition toward literacy, however, that many of us fail to recognize the oral characteristics of electronic media. Today, writers inevitably tend to describe the web in terms of “publishing” or, like H.G. Wells, to compare it to a vast library. And while the web does indeed support new kinds of publishing, it is also a place to “talk.”
Wright, Glut, page 232

Walter Ong calls this “secondary orality,” that is, orality which is written in the technical sense (via pecking at a keyboard) but which is fundamentally an element of oral culture. So, when you rant on Twitter about your coworker who can’t stop twirling her hair, or text your spouse to please pick up a bottle of wine on the way home, you’re engaging in an oral tradition, not a literate one.

Think that through, and it’s not surprising that replies emerged organically on Twitter and elsewhere; having a conversation means talking to other people. Absent the technical means to do that, we invented a method that was then widely, and rapidly, adopted.

Interestingly, with secondary orality, we have orality that looks like literacy, but isn’t. Strange things can happen when you miss that point. Flipboard aggregates content from your social graph in really lovely ways, but the juxtaposition of oral culture in an essentially literate design doesn’t always make sense. It’s quite odd to see your friend’s tweet about their breakfast burrito elevated to a strikingly designed pull quote. The pull quote is a design pattern that emerged from a culture of publishing—from a process by which an editor would carefully select a bit of text that, when extracted and enlarged, would resonate with the greater work. But here, there is no greater work, and no editor: only the blind act of an algorithm.

That algorithm knows a lot about who your friends are, and what they recommend, but it does not (yet, at least), recognize the difference between talking and publishing. The result is content that looks beautiful, typographically speaking, but whose effect is dissonant, rather than engaging. Designing for secondary orality is going to require developing new patterns, not merely pouring words into the old ones."

[via: https://twitter.com/litherland/status/717739487829299201 ]
walterong  secondaryorality  alexwright  manybrown  2011  twitter  flipboard  via:litherland  socialmedia  conversation 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Decay of Twitter - The Atlantic
"Do other things get smooshed on Twitter? Definitely. The public and the private smoosh, as do the personal and professional. I’d even argue that subjectivity and objectivity get smooshed—consider the Especially Serious Journalists who note that “RTs are not endorsements.” But understanding Twitter as an online space that, for a long time, drew its energy from the tension between orality and literacy, and that—in its mid-life—has moved more decisively toward one over the other, works for me as a model of its collapse.

This tension also explains, to me, why the more visual social networks have stayed fun and vibrant even as the text-based ones have not. Vine, Pinterest, and Instagram don’t traffic in words, which can be reduced to identity-based magnum opi, but in images, which are a little harder to smoosh. Visual conversations have stayed chatty, in other words."



"In the final paragraphs of this article, let me assert something I have very little data to support: At some point early last year, the standard knock against Twitter—which had long ceased to be “I don’t want to know what someone’s eating for lunch”—became “I don’t want everyone to see what I have to say.” The public knows about conversation smoosh, and that constitutes, I think, a major problem for Twitter the Company. New products like Moments—which collects tweets, images, and video into little summaries—are not going to fix that.

I’m not sure anything can fix it, honestly. But I wonder if Twitter can’t arrange a de-smooshing, at least a little bit, by creating more forms of private-ness on the site. Separating the private and the public could, in turn, delineate “speech-like” and “print-like” tweets. Twitter’s offered locked accounts for a long time, but it has always been default public. (For a few early years, a pane on Twitter.com displayed every tweet.) Making it so an individual tweet’s publicness can be toggled on or off might help users feel more comfortable spending time there. And pushing new users toward secret accounts that can toggle individual tweets public might even allay some of their fears.

Or maybe nothing can be done. No one promises growth forever. Communities and companies of all sizes fall apart. And some institutions that thrive on their tensions for many years can one day find them exhausted, worn out, limp, their continued use driven more by convenience and habit than by vibrancy and vigor."
robinsonmeyer  2015  twitter  socialmedia  bonniestewart  walterong  secondaryorality  orality  literacy  internet  web  communication  online  communities  community  visibility  surveillance  contextcollapse  context  instagram  text  conversation  chattiness  vine  pinterest 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Orality and Literacy | A Working Library
"Ong’s is perhaps the only book I’ve discovered that carefully and thoroughly addresses the differences between oral and literate cultures. In pointing out that Plato used writing to deliver his objections to the written word, he says “Once the word is technologized, there is no effective way to criticize what technology has done with it without the aid of the highest technology available” (page 79).



A place to talk
[http://aworkinglibrary.com/writing/a-place-to-talk/ ]
Today, we are witnessing the reemergence in electronic form of oral patterns that have been hiding in plain site for generations. So deeply ingrained is our cultural disposition toward literacy, however, that many of us fail to recognize the oral characteristics of electronic media. Today, writers inevitably tend to describe the web in terms of “publishing” or, like H.G. Wells, to compare it to a vast library. And while the web does indeed support new kinds of publishing, it is also a place to “talk.”
[Wright, Glut, page 232 http://aworkinglibrary.com/reading/glut/ ]

Walter Ong calls this “secondary orality,” that is, orality which is written in the technical sense (via pecking at a keyboard) but which is fundamentally an element of oral culture. So, when you rant on Twitter about your coworker who can’t stop twirling her hair, or text your spouse to please pick up a bottle of wine on the way home, you’re engaging in an oral tradition, not a literate one.

Think that through, and it’s not surprising that replies emerged organically on Twitter and elsewhere; having a conversation means talking to other people. Absent the technical means to do that, we invented a method that was then widely, and rapidly, adopted.

Interestingly, with secondary orality, we have orality that looks like literacy, but isn’t. Strange things can happen when you miss that point. Flipboard aggregates content from your social graph in really lovely ways, but the juxtaposition of oral culture in an essentially literate design doesn’t always make sense. It’s quite odd to see your friend’s tweet about their breakfast burrito elevated to a strikingly designed pull quote. The pull quote is a design pattern that emerged from a culture of publishing—from a process by which an editor would carefully select a bit of text that, when extracted and enlarged, would resonate with the greater work. But here, there is no greater work, and no editor: only the blind act of an algorithm.

That algorithm knows a lot about who your friends are, and what they recommend, but it does not (yet, at least), recognize the difference between talking and publishing. The result is content that looks beautiful, typographically speaking, but whose effect is dissonant, rather than engaging. Designing for secondary orality is going to require developing new patterns, not merely pouring words into the old ones."

[via: https://twitter.com/aworkinglibrary/status/554765730458370048

in response to “Digital Culture is Like Oral Culture Written Down: Calling a selfie stick or lunch pic narcissistic reflects a written culture perspective. Here’s how I reframe things.”
https://medium.com/the-civic-beat/digital-culture-is-like-oral-culture-written-down-df896b287782

which came via: https://twitter.com/mathpunk/status/554666572716187648 ]
manybrown  walterong  orality  secondaryorality  literacy  2011  1982  oraltradition  conversation  oralculture  culture  multiliteracies  publishing  internet  web  aggregation  talking  speech  technology  digital  online  internetweb  twitter  socialmedia 
january 2015 by robertogreco
something is rotten in the state of...Twitter | the theoryblog
"Some of this is overt hostile takeover – a trifecta of monetization and algorithmic thinking and status quo interests like big brands and big institutions and big privilege pecking away at participatory practices since at least 2008.

<i>…Oh, you formed a little unicorn world where you can communicate at scale outside the broadcast media model? Let us sponsor that for you, sisters and brothers. Let us draw you from your domains of your own to mass platforms where networking will, for awhile, come fully into flower while all the while Venture Capital logics tweak and incentivize and boil you slowly in the bosom of your networked connections until you wake up and realize that the way you talk to half the people you talk to doesn’t encourage talking so much as broadcasting anymore.</i> Yeh. Oh hey, *that* went well.

And in academia, with Twitter finally on the radar of major institutions, and universities issuing social media policies and playing damage control over faculty tweets with the Salaita firing and even more recent, deeply disturbing rumours of institutional interventions in employee’s lives, this takeover threatens to choke a messy but powerful set of scholarly practices and approaches it never really got around to understanding. The threat of being summarily acted upon by the academy as a consequence of tweets – always present, frankly, particularly for untenured and more vulnerable members of the academic community – now hangs visibly over all heads…even while the medium is still scorned as scholarship by many.

[image of @bonstewart tweet: “academia, this whole “Twitter counts enough to get you fired but not hired” mindset is why we can’t have nice things.”]

You’re Doing It Wrong

But there’s more. The sense of participatory collective – always fraught – has waned as more and more subcultures are crammed and collapsed into a common, traceable, searchable medium. We hang over each other’s heads, more and more heavily, self-appointed swords of Damocles waiting with baited breath to strike. Participation is built on a set of practices that network consumption AND production of media together…so that audiences and producers shift roles and come to share contexts, to an extent. Sure, the whole thing can be gamed by the public and participatory sharing of sensationalism and scandal and sympathy and all the other things that drive eyeballs.

But where there are shared contexts, the big nodes and the smaller nodes are – ideally – still people to each other, with longterm, sustained exposure and impressions formed. In this sense, drawing on Walter Ong’s work on the distinctions between oral and literate cultures, Liliana Bounegru has claimed that Twitter is a hybrid: orality is performative and participatory and often repetitive, premised on memory and agonistic struggle and the acceptance of many things happening at once, which sounds like Twitter As We Knew It (TM), while textuality enables subjective and objective stances, transcending of time and space, and collaborative, archivable, analytical knowledge, among other things.

Thomas Pettitt even calls the era of pre-digital print literacy “The Gutenberg Parenthesis;” an anomaly of history that will be superceded by secondary orality via digital media.

Um…we may want to rethink signing up for that rodeo. Because lately secondary orality via digital media seems like a pretty nasty, reactive state of being, a collective hiss of “you’re doing it wrong.” Tweets are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers…because the Attention Economy rewards those behaviours. Oh hai, print literacies and related vested interests back in ascendency, creating a competitive, zero-sum arena for interaction. Such fun!

[image of @bonstewart tweet: “the problem with 2014 Twitter, short version: being constantly on guard against saying the wrong thing leaves no much left to say.”]

Which is not to say there’s no place for “you’re doing it wrong.” Twitter, dead or no, is still a powerful and as yet unsurpassed platform for raising issues and calling out uncomfortable truths, as shown in its amplification of the #Ferguson protests to media visibility (in a way Facebook absolutely failed to do thanks to the aforementioned algorithmic filters). Twitter is, as my research continues to show, a path to voice. At the same time, Twitter is also a free soapbox for all kinds of shitty and hateful statements that minimize or reinforce marginalization, as any woman or person of colour who’s dared to speak openly about the raw deal of power relations in society will likely attest. And calls for civility will do nothing except reinforce a respectability politics of victim-blaming within networks. This intractable contradiction is where we are, as a global neoliberal society: Twitter just makes it particularly painfully visible, at times."

[See also: http://edcontexts.org/twitter/behind-something-is-rotten-in-the-state-of-twitter/ ]
academia  competition  fear  twitter  bonniestewart  2014  participatory  branding  institutions  corporatization  socialmedia  corporatism  gutenbergparenthesis  thomaspettitt  lilianabounegru  performance  orality  oraltradition  communication  digital  digitalmedia  media  attention  attentioneconomy  print  literacies  literacy  subcultures  legibility  participation  participatorymedia  networkedculture  culture  walterong  donnaharaway  emilygordon  ferguson  participatorculture  networkedpublics  stevensalaita  secondaryorality 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Unbuilding — Lined & Unlined
[now here: https://linedandunlined.com/archive/unbuilding ]

Here's another something that's too large to unpack in a quote or two or three or more, so just one, then read and view (many images) the rest.

"Unlike the thesis, Antithesis was an optional class. Instead of a constant, year-long process, it was interstitial, happening during a “down time” in the year. We didn’t really have class meetings — instead, I spent my time hanging out in the studio. Everyone loosened up. After thinking intensively about the thesis for 12 weeks, it was time to stop thinking about it — at least, consciously. The goal was not to keep pushing forward on the thesis but to get new projects started in parallel."

[video: https://vimeo.com/63008758 ]
completeness  sourcecode  viewsource  critique  susansontag  webdesign  aestheticpractice  criticalautonomy  canon  andrewblauvelt  billmoggridge  khoivinh  community  communities  livingdocuments  constitution  usconstitution  metaphors  metaphor  borges  telescopictext  joedavis  language  culturalsourcecode  cooper-hewitt  sebchan  github  johngnorman  recycling  interboropartners  kiva  pennandteller  jakedow-smith  pointerpointer  davidmacaulay  stevejobs  tednelson  humanconsciousness  consciousness  literacy  walterong  pipa  sopa  wikipedia  robertrauschenberg  willemdekooning  humor  garfieldminusgarfield  garfield  danwalsh  ruderripps  okfocus  bolognadeclaration  pedagogy  mariamontessori  freeuniversityofbozen-bolzano  openstudioproject  lcproject  tcsnmy  howweteach  cv  anti-hierarchy  hierarchy  autonomy  anti-autonomy  anti-isolation  anti-specialization  avant-garde  vanabbemuseum  charlesesche  understanding  knowing  socialsignaling  anyahindmarch  thinking  making  inquiry  random  informality  informal  interstitial  antithesis  action  non-action  anikaschwarzlose  jona 
november 2012 by robertogreco
(hm) Electric Literacy Playground
[Wayback link: https://web.archive.org/web/20101028060343/http://www.headmine.net/electric-literacy-playground ]

"In the 20th century, youth culture gave birth to a new sensory training ground that helped us explore and adapt to the emerging electronic environment."

""To think of such a culture as 'preliterate' is already to distort it. It is like thinking of a horse as an automobile without wheels." - Walter Ong"

"Since we are, like the ancient Athenians, living through the beginning of a major technological revolution that is putting pressures on every aspect of our cultural fabric, de Kerckhove's study of the Greek theater should make us pause and ask ...

"What would a playground for electric literacy look like?" and "Have we already created such an environment?""

"What would a sensory training ground for electric literacy feel like?"

"The distinctions between art and utility are already beginning to blur in our digital world."
education  technology  culture  history  media  art  headmine  utility  glvo  cv  literacy  senses  sensory  training  unschooling  deschooling  digital  marshallmcluhan  ancientgreece  play  digitalliteracy  society  sensemaking  bighere  longnow  walterong  tcsnmy  lcproject  shiftctrlesc  secondaryorality 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy « Snarkmarket
"This is where most of the futur­ists got it wrong — the impact of radio, tele­vi­sion, and the tele­phone weren’t going to be solely or even pri­mar­ily on more and more speech, but, for tech­ni­cal or cul­tural or who-knows-exactly-what rea­sons, on writ­ing! We didn’t give up writ­ing — we put it in our pock­ets, took it out­side, blended it with sound, pic­tures, and video, and sent it over radio waves so we could “talk” to our friends in real-time. And we used those same radio waves to down­load books and news­pa­pers and every­thing else to our screens so we would have some­thing to talk about."
timcarmody  literacy  reading  writing  secondaryliteracy  snarkmarket  books  radio  multimedia  marshallmcluhan  walterong  jacquesderrida  secondaryorality 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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