The Eye and the Ear

At the beginning of this lesson I pointed to the idea that technological advances in communication tools have been part of the impetus to rethink the divisive and hierarchical categorizing of literature and orality, and suggested that this is happening for a number of reasons.  I’d like you to consider two aspects of digital literature: 1) social media tools that enable widespread publication, without publishers, and 2) Hypertext, which is the name for the text that lies beyond the text you are reading, until you click. How do you think these capabilities might be impacting literature and story?

The binary model of looking at orality and literacy as somehow representing an evolutionary progression from the spoken word to the written word loses relevance in the context of digital literature where we are able to combine so many different forms of communication into one experience. As pointed out by Courtney MacNeil in “Orality”, “The advent of contemporary Internet culture has encouraged the recognition that oral and textual need not be viewed from a hierarchical perspective” (3). This old hierarchy that places literacy above orality based on the notion that orality is “undeveloped and primitive” and that literacy is “civilized” is rooted in racism and is in need of an overhaul. All that we are doing by thinking in this binary way is creating unnecessary categories for orality and literacy to exist where they are in competition with each other – each looking to devalue the other.

The modern truth however is much more blurred than this as the Internet has created a space where multiple mediums are able to combine to tell one or many stories at the same time. As such, we should be able rethink the way we understand the way we communicate and be comfortable with the changing tide of new media and how it relates to aural, textual and visual information exchange. The impact that these new technologies have on literature and story is complex and far-reaching.

Because we are able to use social media to publish our own work, and that we are able to fashion interactive digital creations that appeal to both the eye and the ear, we must also be mindful of the ways in which our experience is being altered. If we fail to acknowledge the author and the medium, then we are devaluing the process of storytelling and ignoring the history and traditions of orality and literacy at the same time. I think that it is very important to pay attention not only to the source of social media content, but also to the author’s purpose for presenting the information. We must constantly question the role of self publication and social media in telling stories in order to protect the art of writing and storytelling. While it is a wonderful thing that we can all publish our own stories through digital media, I think that we must diligently protect the art of communication by acknowledging the impact that our publications may have on the reader. If the author is choosing to alter the readers experience by adding a tool such as hyperlink, I think that it needs to be very purposeful. If a reader is being introduced to a new aural, textual, or visual experience, I think that they should also think about why that is.

The hyperlink, which serves to interactively connect the reader to additional material within the body of the publication is one of these tools that asks the reader to make a decision. Do they want to click on the link and experience something new, which may or may not  (links that lead the reader to related stories) be directly connected to the publication? Do they want to wait until the end of the story to go back and revisit the link for additional information? Or do they choose to ignore the link altogether? All of these choices draw the reader into the story by creating a choose your own adventure type of environment; an environment that blends orailty and literacy while also changing the reader’s relationship to the story by offering interactive options.

Works Cited

“Choose Your Own Adventure”. cyoa. N.p. n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2014

MacNeil, Courtney. Orality. The Chicago School of Media Theory. Uchicagoedublogs. 2007. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Paterson, Erika. “Lesson 1.2 Story & Literature.” University of British Columbia. UBC Blogs. 2014. Web. Web. 17.Jan. 2014.

Rice, Waubgeshig. “#20 Electric Powwow”. The Walrus. N.p. Dec. 2013. Web. 17. Jan. 2014.

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