(8/24/01 11:41:46 am)
| Literacy & Orality, and the Internet ...|
Being me, I'm going about my teaching career completely bass-ackwards;
last year, I taught my own course independantly, and this year,
I'll have my first position as a teaching assistant. I'm really
looking forward to it; the gentleman who's teaching the course seems
quite brilliant, and I think that I'll learn a lot from him (in
all honesty, if I weren't TA'ing, I'd be taking the course; with
a topic like this, how could I not?). The course focuses on the
relationship between the oral tradition and the written tradition;
his own areas of interest include the Gaelic and African mythic
traditions, and past syllabi have included nifty materials such
as _The Epic of Son-Jara_, _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_, _The
Tempest_, _The Handmaid's Tale_ ... good stuff. He's offered me
the opportunity to give a lecture or two myself, possibly focusing
on the ways in which the Internet is blurring/expanding the boundaries
between the two forms. So, naturally, I thought of all of you ...
My initial reaction is to say that the 'Net gives literature the advantage of a more dialogue-like form ... rather reminiscent of a term that he mentioned to me today, orature (orality/literature), neither wholly one nor the other. What do you think?
Edited by: Helen at: 8/24/01 11:44:51 am
(8/24/01 10:09:27 pm)
| A couple of quick thoughts|
I don't know how appropriate this is to your topic, but there have been several studies done on the idea that email and instant messaging have developed their own grammer, spelling and even vocabulary. I tried a quick Google search, but couldn't come up with the articles in question. I'll try to pull them up again when I have more time. I do know from personal experience (as I am sure you do as well) that even highly educated people seem to break with formality when they use these forms of writing.
Second, I wonder if one could make the argument that often literature tries to imitate dialect, whereas both the oral tradition and the internet incorporate dialect. Kind of spliting hairs, but I think the distinction is real. Something to explore perhaps?
Hey, all of you out there, thanks again for putting up with my uneducated posts.
(8/25/01 12:24:05 am)
| Re: A couple of quick thoughts|
Helen, have you read David Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous? He discusses written vrs. oral story-telling traditions at length, relating the subject not only to world myth but also to the modern ecology movement. Fascinating stuff. My copy is on loan to a friend, so I can't pull it out to see if he discusses the Internet specifically, nor can I remember offhand...but it's worth taking a look at Abram's book if you haven't come across it already. (It's one of my personal favorites, right up there with the sainted Lewis Hyde.)
Jess: Having a non-academic background and being uneducated are not the same things...judging from your posts, you are hardly the latter.... <g>
At least, I hope they're not the same thing, since my own academic background is mighty slim....
(8/25/01 6:50:40 am)
Not a book I know, Terri--can you tell the publisher, please? Sounds like one I need.
(8/25/01 12:51:47 pm)
| Re: Literacy & Orality, and the Internet ...|
I guess rather than thinking of the Internet as oral or a mix of oral and literature, I think of it more as its own thing. It does have more of a dialogue, but the writing is more like note writing - say those notes we all passed in class. (Actually I was too scared of getting caught, but you know what I mean.) Postcards. The post its we leave for our loved ones around the house. It catches more of the brief fleeting thoughts than fully polished expression.
What the Internet especially lacks, for me anyway, is the 'on stage' feeling, the watching and being watched that comes with communicating orally. None of you know what I look like, the tone of my voice, the way I move my hands when I speak. Even radio or recordings catch vocal tone and expression. When we communicate electronically, so much is hidden behind our computer screens. To me, oral expression is a great deal more than just the words.
Now I'm wandering and I suppose I'll stop. Interesting topic anyway. Laura Mc
(8/25/01 1:45:35 pm)
| Respectfully disagree|
I would respectfully disagree with your notion about oral communication's greater power. Interestingly, I find that the anonimity of communicating over the Internet can allow greater, or rather more sincere, expression. It also has the advantage that written communication has in that it can be revised and edited before it is published.
The "on-stage" aspect exists in some form as well. There are those that write to impress. You can usually see it in the calculated way some people write. But in contrast, and this goes to my earlier comment about dialect, there are also people who simply state their minds in whatever manner they normally speak.
Interestingly, I find that you can learn a lot about people communicating on or through electrical media just by reading mutiple or lengthy entries. People tend to be more honest about themselves and ironically, more discriptive.
There that should give you something to think about. I would love your feedback.
Oh and thanks Terri for the encouraging note - I will try not to be so self-depracating in the future.
(8/25/01 2:00:48 pm)
| I forgot to add|
One more thing that I think is an important element of electronic communication is that it is extremely simple and quick. For example, prior to our internet access, I found I had lost touch with many people. Through email, I have the ability to communicate with them on both my and their schedules. This convenience element should not be overlooked. Letters that would have been lost, sat on, or edited get sent immediately (without the attention), as do their replies.
Second, it allows access. People can communicate with other people that they would otherwise have no contact with, like yourselves (or might be intimidated out of communicating with). And to learn quite a bit about them prior to communicating - allowing the writer to target his or her writing to the audience. And then, quickly.
How this works into your topics, I am not sure.
(8/25/01 11:06:14 pm)
| Re: I forgot to add|
Jane: David Abram's book is published in trade paperback by Vintage. The full title is:The Spell of the Sensuous : Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. Abram approaches the subject of written vrs. oral traditions from the perspective of an animist, which is something I appreciate, being of an animist bent myself. But don't worry, it's not a fuzzy New Age book; his intellect is sharp and his theories, whether you end up agreeing with him or not, are both well researched and well reasoned. The book falls somewhere on the spectrum between Lewis Hyde's work and Gary Snyder's Practice of the Wild. (Another favorite.)
Edited by: Terri at: 8/25/01 11:09:49 pm
(8/26/01 5:20:49 am)
| Re: Respectfully disagree|
I agree with many of your points, but I think that these make the medium more on the side of written, rather than oral communication. Writing gives distance. You don't need to stand next to someone and see how they react, or deal with the immediacy of their reaction. (Terri - I keep thinking of Jane Austen here! So many of those pivotal moments are brought about by letters one lover gives to another to say what s/he truly feels.) The writer also can think through what s/he says before actually putting thoughts to paper or digital expression or whatever. But sometimes thinking things through tempers that immediate reaction - which may be for the best or may not.
And while I agree that communicating over the Internet allows people to write more than they might say in a public space, such communication also allows for the most complete deception or cloaking. A writer could claim to be anything - a woman when he was a man, old rather than young, from anyplace s/he wishes. I think this is both wonderful and also tricky, not to mention dangerous in some circumstances.
As to "on-stage," I would agree with you again in some respects, but I was thinking more about...well..I don't know how to describe it. The way you have to be totally focused when you talk or tell a story or discuss in person. I guess I think of this as the intense focus and energy I get when I work with a group of kids. I can't wander off and do something else. I can't go back and re-start the story I'm telling. I have to listen to all of what they have to say. I have to be ready in that moment and I have to think on my feet. And then I'm exhausted at the end of the day.
Just some more thoughts. Probably more feedback than you needed!
(8/26/01 6:19:41 am)
I am both an oral storyteller (I do it professionally) as well as a storyteller on paper (ditto.) There is an enormous difference in those. Some stories work wonderfully well in both mediums, but a majority do not.
1. Narrative voice changes. For example, I can make a boy's voice more forceful on the page than when I am telling the story orally. My listeners have to work harder at the beginning to put away the sight of a middle aged woman speaking a boy's words then.
2. In an oral tale, the audience helps shape the story (are they awake? Are they leaning into the tale? Are they snoring, inattentive, watching the clock, figeting?) But in a written story it is shaped initially by the author listening to the story told. Afterwards, a reader may reshape it, but not that the teller knows.
3. An oral story gets no revision at the moment of telling. But retold it is rarely the same. A written story is not done till it is revised thoroughly, yet once down in its finished form and published, it might as well be graven in stone.
4. An oral story drags you relentlessly forward. A written story may be stopped, put down, a particularly felicitous phrase revisited by a turn of the page, a point misunderstood reread.
those are some initial thoughts.
(8/28/01 6:31:20 am)
Thank you very much for your valuable comments. This is all going
to come in very handy when I start trying to put the lecture together;
if no one object, to illustrate my first point (Internet as dialogue)
I think that I might print out this page, or direct students to
take a look at it in its native form on the 'Net (with the possible
benificial side effect of introducing them to this board). You've
all made excellent points; working backwords, Jane, your comments
are incredibly valuable, simply because you have the first hand
knowledge to compare all three mediums. I know the 'Net fairly well,
and I flatter mysef that I'm vaguely familiar with literature, but
when it comes to oral storytelling ... I only know the medium from
the side of the listener, and not that of the teller. Thank you.
Laura and Jess: between you, you've set up a great debate on which
genre is closest to the 'Net (personally, I'm really looking forward
to seeing how many of your points will be hit upon by students on
their own). Terri, thank you for the bibliography - I was feeling
a bit out of my element, and you've given me a terrific place to
start ... after I finish this post, I'm off to Labrinth in the hopes
that they'll have them all on hand. You're all wonderful ... I love
(8/28/01 2:48:38 pm)
| Some thoughts about the telephone and the internet|
This has been fun. Laura, you made some great points that I have to defer to. Storytelling is an art in and of itself and yes, I can see how it is very different from both the internet and written communication. This is why I enjoy reading this site. People bring so much to it - I agree with you Helen.
One more thing I thought about. How is communciation on the internet like a telephone conversation. While the personal contact described by Jane and Laura exist in person to person oral communication, i.e., the "on-stage" aspect, that does not exist in telephone communication arguably one of the most pervasive forms of oral communication. With phone conversations the appearance of the user is masked much like on the internet - but you still have vocal inflection, missing from Internet communication.
Also, I would like to point out that no single form of communication exists on the internet. The vast majority of communication is pure, written communication meant to be read like a book. But where do the less formal methods fit in - forums, email and instant messaging.
More feedback. Good luck Helen. Great topic.
(8/28/01 4:37:38 pm)
| Re: Some thoughts about the telephone and the internet|
I'm so glad my class ended so I had some energy to participate in this discussion! Thanks Helen for bringing it up.
Jess - I think you have a good poinr about the similarities to phone conversation. The phone captures voice more and has less distance - but I agree that the dialogue aspect is similar.
Anyway, have to run tonight, but looking forward to reading more on this. Let us know what your students come up with, Helen. Laura Mc