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Orality and Literacy by Walter Ong (follow-up)

September 23, 2009

Two things:

1. Just read this in The Canon by Nathalie Angier, and I thought it summed up nicely some of what Ong was getting at: “…it meant the time for reporting was over, and the time had arrived for writing, the painful process, as the neuroscientist Susan Hockfield so pointedly put it, of transforming three-dimensional, parallel-processed experience into two-dimensional, linear narrative.  ‘It’s worse than squaring a circle,’ she said.  ‘It’s squaring a sphere.'”

2. Re: Clay Shirky’s lecture last night in Red’s Applications: the FCC didn’t sell off the entire spectrum before the internet.  There were small networks at the perimeter, such as shortwave hams, and CB clubs (shortwave was a significant voice of protest during WW II) but it is interesting that no network effect occurred on the scale of the internet.  The Structure of Scientific Revolution comes to mind, and one wonders whether all the technological components were not in place, whether there was significant central control, or if it was simply that the idea hadn’t yet occurred.  In relation to Ong, though, one also wonders if the key component was that radio is oral, and that the internet revolution occurred because it accessed writing in the form of electronic print, and that in turn can be used to control all output, whether literary, auditory or visual.

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