The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

A Thought from the Reading

As I was reading chapter four of Ong’s book I had a thought (which I promptly wrote down so I would not forget). Could it be possible that our brains are prewired or preconditioned for oral forms of communitcation only. Perhaps that is why it is difficult for some to express their thoughts clearly in written form? Oral communication is an innate human product whereas writing is a learned process. In short, I wonder if there is a correlation.


1 Drew Ryan { 09.25.09 at 12:31 pm }

Lindsey, I would suggest there most certainly would be a pre-disposition (prewired) element to human interaction; both with living and non-living elements in our environments.
I also believe Ong has demonstrated that oral cultures are not inferior to text-based cultures and yet much bias still exists. Something that I find quite interesting is the varied expressions of modern literacy e.g., pic. symbols, texting, skype, etc. Are students and practitioners of these skills less capable to be thriving members of modern society or more capable?
Do I correct one of my students for writing in class how they text their peers? Or, do I bring this skill into my writing classes?

Thanks for the post:)

2 Catherine Gagnon { 09.25.09 at 8:03 pm }

Oh Drew, now I feel like a dinosaur for correcting my students when they use the lower case i in a sentence or omit punctuation all together! And I am a Business/Computer teacher, not even qualified to teach English.

Maybe you are right. Maybe we are just remnants of a different time when punctuation actually mattered. Language evolves and computer technology seems to be the driving force. I think of French – words such as août (August) were given an accent to contract extra vowels. That accent is disappearing. This in my lifetime (ok, I am over half a century old).

It’s neat to see how language is evolving so quickly as we not only have a need for rapid communication (like Twitter) but we are exposed, through information technology, to other cultures. We have a term in Business – monoculture. I guess I’d better start using my emoticons and lols before I am no longer understood by anyone under 50.

3 Danielle Baxter { 09.25.09 at 10:56 pm }

Lindsey, your question about “hard-wiring” reminded me of some of the ideas of Mark Turner in his book ‘The Literary Mind’. “The central issues for cognitive science, ” Turner says, “are in fact the issues of the literary mind.”

Turner is a professor of English and Cognitive Science, and he believes that “Narrative imagining – story – is the fundamental instrument of thought. Rational capacities depend upon it. . . . It is . . . indispensable to human cognition generally.”

He’s not particularly interested in dividing “literary” into a dichotomy of orality and text, but wants to look at how story – particularly parable – is foundational to our entire cognitive framework, not just intellectually but neurologically.

Looking at it from this perspective, the ability to grasp (and use) parable is innate, and this ability is at the root of language, hence of communication; oral, verbal or whatever else we can dream up. How effectively we communicate in any of these forms would be where individual characteristics and circumstances come in – aptitude, motivation, opportunity, etc. And I think that some of us may engage more readily with some forms – or media – than others, whether for personal or cultural reasons, or…?

So one of the strengths or opportunities offered by having a variety of forms concurrently accepted as legitimate or authoritative, alone or in combination (rather than just a progression, in which each earlier form is superseded by what comes after), is the possibility for the individual of finding that in which s/he can “speak” most fluently – and be heard.

(And perhaps our confusion here, or in any unfamiliar culture, is a result of finding ourselves surrounded by – as yet – unrecognized parables…?)

4 Drew Ryan { 09.26.09 at 8:47 am }

Lindsey, from what I can see/tell you are definitely proficient in the ‘new technologies’ and quite right with regard to the evolution of language.
I do believe we need to recognize this evolution and yet still provide our students foundational skills in grammar, etc giving our students a solid basis to hang their Web 2.0 skills.


5 Bev { 09.26.09 at 11:53 am }

I think we are prewired for an oral culture in many ways. I live in a small community and like many small communities, most people are related to several other people in the community, and some are related to everyone. Often times when people gather together much time is spent discussing family genealogies in the sense of “who is related to who” and how they are related. When meeting someone new , should you find out that they are related to “so and so” suddenly the world is a better place. Odd thing- but an important part of oral cultures.

6 Hosein Moeini { 09.26.09 at 3:11 pm }

From time to time, I even see that people believe in oral forms of communication much more than written form (especially for news!) Can it also be related to (as Ong says) prewiring or preconditioning of our brains for oral forms of communitcation ?

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