Friday, June 11, 2010

Walter Ong's Secondary Orality and its relationship to mobile devices

Mobile devices offer us a variety of new abilities that might not be so new but also might be exponentially more powerful in the modern form.

That's a bit confusing, even to me, so I'll back up and try again. For many months, maybe even a year, I have been thinking that there are important foundational connections between mobile devices and oral traditions. Mobile devices, such as the iPhone, can be aware of our location, spatial features around us, the context of the situation, including what has happened to us before and what relationships we have with other people in the area, and so on. Which all sounds really amazing, until you think that any person interacting with another person (or crowd) could very well do the same thing without a machine.

In lecturing, for example, I might know quite a bit about my audience, including names, motivations and even how many times a particular audience member has heard me give this sort of talk before. I can connect socially with these people, be chatty, walk around the auditorium and talk to each individual. But what I can't do, and where the mobile devices show immense potential, is perform that same personalized routine simultaneously for thousands of different people at once, nurturing a collective and open and collaborative environment endlessly at all hours of the day, generously responding to each individual, all while giving the impression that this sort of feedback is authored and tailored just for the single recipient experiencing it.

Along those lines, it caught my attention when Walter Ong's Second Orality was mentioned briefly, starting on page 7, in:

Baehr, C., & Schaller, B. (2009). Writing for the internet: A guide to real communication in virtual space: Greenwood Press.

Among the intriguing traits identified by Ong (1982), and capsulized by Baehr and Schaller, is that oral culture speakers often adapted their storytelling in response to audience reaction. Could that be the origins of interactive storytelling? Location, spatial and contextual awareness are critical components in mobile delivery, but they also seem monumentally relevant to oral cultures. In turn, Ong's theories are definitely now on my reading list. Here are the sources I plan to find and examine:

From the Baehr and Schaller book:

Ong, W. (Ed.). (1967). The presence of the word: Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Ong, W. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word: Routledge New York.

And a collection of various articles that make reference to mobile technology and secondary orality and new media, such as:

Potts, J. (2008). Who’s afraid of technological determinism? Another look at medium theory. Fibreculture Journal, 12.

Hartnell-Younga, E., & Vetereb, F. (2008). A means of personalising learning: Incorporating old and new literacies in the curriculum with mobile phones. Curriculum Journal, 19(4), 283-292.

Joyce, M. (2002). No one tells you this: Secondary orality and hypertextuality. Oral Tradition, 17(2).

Any other suggestions?

When I get through those, I'll report back what I find.

1 comment:

Craig Baehr said...

Ong is a great start and so is Joyce. You might also look at two other often cited names with his...Eric Havelock and Michael Heim. Hyperfiction might also be a subject you look more into, as there might be useful concepts that are applicable to the work you're doing.