Last modified 8 July 2003
Other documents by Kaitlin Duck Sherwood:
The Effect of Novel Communications Technologies on Society
Note: I have read most, but not all of these materials yet.
The ones that I have not yet read are referenced heavily by other works.
Orality and Literacy
There is a whole bunch of work that talks about "literate" versus "oral"
Orality and Literacy : the technologizing of the word by
Walter J. Ong. This is a great book that will blow your mind.
It is the seminal work in the field.
- Spoken and Written Language, Exploring Orality and Literacy
edited by Deborah Tannen. I haven't read this, but I've liked every Tannen book that I've
ever read, and this one is well-cited.
Ablex Pub Corp, 1997; ISBN: 0893910945
- Ian Ritchie wrote a doctoral thesis on
Religion and Culture;
the chapter on
Shifting Sensorium and African Orality raises some really interesting
ideas. Basically, he says that the literate European culture has lost
touch with most of our senses, becoming biased almost completely towards
seeing. He says that oral cultures value hearing, touch, taste, and smell
much more than literate cultures.
of the Ear and Eye: 'Great Divide' Theories, Phonocentrism, Graphocentrism,
and Logocentrism by Daniel Chandler looks interesting; I'm not sure if
I've read it all or not, so I'm going to hold off on commenting.
- Alphabet to email by Naomi Baron
is a really cool book. She talks about the distinctions between written
and spoken English, including a lot of fascinating history. (Did you know that
the rule about not putting an adjective at the end of a sentence was
made up to try to make English look more like Latin, and hence more "legitimate"?) Her book also has an extremely good and thorough bibliography.
Formality of Language:
definition, measurement and behavioral determinants
by Heylighen and Dewaele isn't exactly on this topic, but I found this
a very useful paper for showing why speech is less formal than writing.
Basically, the less context the sender/speaker shares with the
receiver/listener, the more formal they must be to communicate effectively.
There are a number of works that argue that Western society is entering
into "secondary orality", where a lot of our information comes from audio
sources. Note that the Web has many "oral" characteristics, as does email.
Orality to Literacy to Hypertext: Back to the Future? by Bob Fowler
lines electronic communication up against Ong's description of oral
cultures. Point-by-point, he shows how hypertext is fits nicely in
the box labeled "oral".
Characteristics of Oral Culture in Discourse on the Net by
John December is a version of a paper presented at the
twelfth annual Penn State Conference on Rhetoric and Composition
on July 8, 1993. It, like Bob Fowler's essay, shows point by point
how computer-mediated communication match Ong's description of oral
Orality, Literacy, and Electronic Discourse by Victor J. Vitanza
is the introduction to his book, Writing for the World Wide Web.
He contends that because hypertext allows users to shape the experience
they consume, hypertext is fundamentally an oral-style discourse.
- The Theory
and Practice of Hypertext Authoring by Paul Dyck is a little weird
and hard to follow, but has some interesting ideas about hypertext as a medium.
Hypertexts, and Other Cultural Formations in the Late Age of Print
by Nancy Kaplan has interesting ideas on computer-mediated communication.
Like Paul Dyck's, it is heavily hypertextual and not very good at
defending a thesis. In fact, it is difficult to figure out exactly what
the thesis is. That may be the most interesting thing about her site:
perhaps hypertext essays are inherently more collegial, less argumentative,
and more experiential. ?
- (Alas, this doesn't seem to be on the Web any more.)
And Orality Are Still In Our Times by Jeff Rice has really
neat memes in it. He argues that the biggest problem facing poor
writers is overcoming their "inner voice". He contends that most
of his freshman rhetoric students are products of a secondary oral culture
- one that gets its stories from radio, television, and movies - and
not a literate one. These students then have a hard time converting
what "sounds" right to them into what looks good to rhetoric teachers.
Print Cultures vs. Scribal Cultures
- The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, by Elizabeth Eisenstein,
is another book that will blow your mind. It shows all the different effects
that the printing press had on religion, politics, creativity, nationalism,
celebrity, and the way people thought about the world and their place in it.
This book also blew my mind.
Note, however, that it is a very academic book; as a non-historian, I found
it a bit of a tough slog. The
abridged version is probably better for casual readers (and
- I've moved my blurb on The Calligraphic State by Messick
to my page on written Arabic.
The Alphabet and the Goddess
by Leonard Shlain
there's something about literacy that changes peoples' thinking to be more
linearally abstract ("masculine") and hence more hostile to the feminine.
I'm not sure I buy this, either. It seems more likely to me that, because
men traditionally are responsible for stuff outside the home -- "public stuff --
and women are traditionally responsible for stuff inside the home -- "private
stuff" -- that when people started writing, it was more natural to write
about public stuff than private stuff. Once you start reading over and
over about men and not women, you start thinking that men are more important
Paper Before Print by Jonathan Bloom, which I didn't have a chance to
read carefully, says that paper came to the Arab world around 700-800 AD, while it
didn't come to the West until 1200 AD.
- I have not read
Culture and Commerce of Texts : Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century
England by Harold Love
but it looks like it might be interesting.
There are interesting reading lists at the
125 Course Outline
the Ear and Eye bibliography