The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Poem on Technology

  As I continued to navigate through the blog and reflect on the idea of text and technology, representing our need to expand our horizons and create more outlets for our creativity, I discovered this poem. I would like to know how you  feel about it. I learnt more about meerkats. They can dig as much dirt as their own body weight in a couple of seconds! I suppose we can only equal that when we truly master the technology. I suppose viruses are like jackals which are the only creatures that can conquer us. My computer was attacked but I am Back!

Community Creatures

A colony of bloggers secure in their topic

ranging in size from massive to microscopic.

The lesser ones surround and support the great

who set the direction for the others to debate.


A flock of forums grazing on knowledge

their shepherds guiding them to fresh foliage.

Free to chew the cud and relax within their walls

trusting the guardians to banish the jackals.


A hydra, a multi-headed oracle, it must be a wiki

tackling all problems from the simple to the tricky.

The multiple heads give it so much knowledge you see.

The only problem is… they do not always agree.


A mob of social bookmarkers, much like meerkats

take turns looking out and deciding what’s good to peer at.

Hoping none of the sentinels is actually a pretender

directing them all according to their own agenda.


In the distance, a herd of social networkers

dashing all over the place. There’s no room for shirkers.

Without any shepherds they all, every day,

have a role to play in keeping predators at bay.

©Adam Rulli-Gibbs 2007

September 23, 2009   2 Comments


To elucidate the concept of “text” I decided to upload this clip from the documentary series Testament, presented by historian John Romer. The series, which was originally aired in 1988, is about the history of the Bible—how it was created and how it has featured in people’s lives throughout history. In this clip, which actually consists of a small clip from the beginning of episode 3 with a clip from the end of the same episode, a narrator reads from the rules of how a Jewish temple scroll is to be written. (Notice that it says no part of the scroll is to be written from memory.) John Romer also tells an interesting story that illustrates the idea that a text is authoritative. In an oral tradition there is no authoritative version of a story. A person tells the story from memory and can change it to suit his or her purposes, usually in response to the reactions of the audience. I was reminded of this clip when listening to James O’Donnell’s discussion of early Christianity and its dependence on writing.

YouTube Preview Image

September 23, 2009   No Comments

Oral Culture – Has something been lost?

I thought I would post my disscussion response from Ong’s chapter three. So far, I have enjoyed the course and am including lots of our ideas in my class. Even though I have a huge learning curve, ( this is my first course in the program) I am finding it easier due to the openness of the class community. So a huge thank you to all of you!


Writing has had much effect on human thought process. Human thought changes with the minor introduction of literacy. The mind shifts from existential or situational intelligence and moves towards more abstract thinking. However, there is something to be said about the oral cultural thinking. It seems very straight-forward and logical. The example of the study with the bears in the North comes to mind. Luria’s questioning involving simple deductive reasoning revealed a different type of answer than I was prepared for. The Illiterate simply stated they had never been there and each region has its own type of animal. I quite liked that answer. It seems more honest or truthful. It is important to think in terms of comprehensive descriptions and more analytic thought but I still find the merits in a oral cultures outlook. Ong suggests that writing provides us with the ability to free the mind of arduous tasks of creating “memorable thoughts” and allows us to turn to more “outside the box thinking”.

Other changes in human processes that occur due to writing include our ability to self analyze and use abstract categorization. The studies identified in Ong’s work suggest that non-literate cultures do not fully possess the ability to look inside them and reflect. In other words they do not have the ability self analyze. Therefore, being able to write (which in itself is an individualistic task) provides us with the ability to look inwards at ourselves whereas oral cultures still think of themselves in external circumstances. The other major change with the introduction of writing is our ability to classify abstractly. Oral cultures will give the names for objects “plate” vs. the abstract “circle”.

These changes to some extent weaken memory. Ong suggests that oral cultures remember by using formulas (repetition, mnemonic patters, alliteration, epithets etc) to help remember what has been said. Orality and Literacy also demonstrates that oral cultures do not memorize verbatim, but make changes due to their own interpretation and the climate of their audience. However, because we have the ability to “write things down” instead of remembering without the use of paper and pen I believe we have lost some of our ability to remember. From my own personal experience, if I do not “write it down” I may forget to do it. Our loss of formulas in speech may contribute to our loss of memory. Ong indicates that with the introduction of writing, came the loss of formulas due to sounding clichéd or redundant. The loss of this may contribute to our inability to remember as well as those in an oral culture.

Does it matter? To some extent it matters. We will become increasingly reliant on “looking stuff up” and the loss itself is regrettable. I somewhat romanticize the oral cultures because of their ability to recite beautiful poems and how they are able to think in such a straightforward (honest) manor. In regards to memory, I find that sometimes I have brilliant insights, subsequently I don’t write it down, and forget. I wonder if someone in a primarily oral culture would have the same problem. Still, my bias leans towards literate cultures and the ability to use deductive reasoning and abstract thinking, which truly opens so many more doors in intellectual exploration. I would not be able to talk to all the authors I have read and never would have known their opinions or thoughts on a subject. For that I am fortunate. In that regard, if we have the ability to write something down to remember it are we really loosing anything tangible?

September 23, 2009   No Comments


Egypt: Abydos, originally uploaded by Brooklyn Museum.

I’ve chosen this picture because it contains an image of the Egyptian god Thoth, mentioned in Plato’s Phaedrus (although there his name is given as “Theuth”). The ancient Greeks identified this Egyptian god with their own god Hermes. They were both associated with writing and with guiding the dead to the underworld. In the case of Hermes I think this connection between writing and death had to do with Hermes being a god of travelers, little shrines to Hermes serving as markers that were placed along a path to guide travelers. So, Hermes was a guide for those traveling to the underworld and also a god of writing, the written words being regarded as like signs and markers along the road. (Just a speculation, though.)

My name is Stuart Edgar and I have just started the MET TBDL program. In addition to taking this course I am also currently taking ETEC 512. I’ve started this course late, just joining this week. For the past eight years I have been teaching philosophy at a university level, at first with the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota, and more recently with Athabasca University. I completed my PhD in philosophy from the University of Calgary last year. I’m particularly interested in ETEC 540 as I have always been fascinated by the relation between languages and worldviews.

September 23, 2009   No Comments

Quote of the Day:

“How can I know what I think till I see what I say”

– Graham Weillas The Art of Thought

Writing solidifies our thoughts? Or perhaps an indication of the importance of oral discussion. Thoughts?

September 23, 2009   1 Comment