Is Our Society Becoming Post L Essay

2389 words - 10 pages

Is our society becoming post-literate? Thousands of years have passed since our culture invented an alphabet to allow spoken words to be permanently recorded. This 'great leap' from orality to literacy had many consequences that will be discussed here. However, many other technologies have come into existence since the alphabet was invented and it has been suggested that we have moved beyond a stage of basic literacy into a new kind of 'post-literacy' or 'secondary orality' (Ong 1982), brought about by these new technologies. This essay will look at the differences between an oral culture and a literate one, describe the effects of literacy upon society, and look at technological breakthroughs, such as the Gutenberg press and more modern inventions such as television, telephone and computers, to see whether we are entering a new era in our progression from oral communication. I will try to examine if this supposed post-literacy, created by new means of communication, is a new stage in our development with profound effects on the structure of our society and look at how different life is with modern technology than life with simple literacy.I will start by comparing orality and literacy to illustrate the deep implications of each. An oral culture is one in which all communication is by talking and listening. The fact that there is no means of writing anything down means that all values and morals of the given society are stored in the minds of the people. As cultural knowledge is so deeply embedded into stories and ritual the concept of knowledge actually existing as a separate entity is non-existent in an oral society. Walter Ong (1982) says that in these kinds of societies knowledge is performed through the telling of stories and the carrying out of rituals. There is no separation of the 'knower from the known' (Havelock 1976). The myths and folktales of the village storyteller do not have a script, this would be an oral version of literacy, they are recreated anew with each performance. There simply is no 'text' apart from each individual incarnation of each tale. The performer of a tale is combining an act of creation with an act of transmission. His primary work is to transmit the culture of the tribe, and in this act of transmission he must be conservative as changes in oral knowledge cannot be undone, for there are no old copies to go back to. Over time, however, subtle differences in the plot can be detected, a process Ong calls 'homeostasis' (Ong 1982).This homeostasis comes about because of the nature of the way cultural knowledge is communicated. When a storyteller stands in front of a group of people he doesn't stand and give a lecture, he tells a story using different words each time it is retold. There is a large degree of interaction between the storyteller and the people listening to what is being said. Gestures and the use of tone emphasise certain parts of the story. If the values that are held in high regard by the culture shift...

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