Sybil Priebe
Dr. Kevin Brooks
Electronic Communications
25 Jan 02 (my birthday!!)
Secondary Orality:

My Surreal Reflection to an Abstract Theory

I don’t know why I need everything laid out for me in concrete terms when I think in abstract ones, but for my own benefit, that is just how I digest new material.

Definitions. Primary orality is based on cultures that exist/existed only on orally means of communication. Secondary orality is what we live daily with now. A life that depends mainly on the existence of words and print in order to even attain some sort of orality.
A scene that makes me remember all this takes into account a hermit named Bob. Bob lives by himself. Now, long ago (before the inventions of the phone and TV, etc), he wouldn’t have known crap about what was occurring around him- Wouldn’t have been able to know how his friends were, what the latest news in the town next to him consisted of, or how to cook the most recent, healthy recipe of lasagna. BUT in this day and age, Bob would be well off even if he only had a TV. Without going outside, he’d know the temperature and if his friend, Herb, was getting rained on in Seattle. Imagine all that! This is what I equate with primary and secondary orality.

Now, as far as the application and the greatness of those theories, I am still undecided. When it comes to applying secondary orality or at least recognizing already existing applications, ones that come to mind for myself are electronic mail and communicating in the classroom.

The problems I have with primary orality lie not so much with the understanding of it, because I do feel it existed, but with the application of it and how it affects us today- mainly in dealing with religion.

And lastly in my reflection, the impact of electronic communication using this secondary orality for me will consist of a well-thought-out application in my own hypertext writings. I would really like them to be more oral, similar to Help found on the WWW.

A. Electronic Communication
I have been told quite a bit that I write like I speak to people, especially when I write e-mails. I don’t deny that at all. It’s my style, yet it definitely adds voice/speech to my writing, and I like that. In stream-of-conscious writing, you definitely get that impression as well. Sure, there are many great authors that can give their writing a ‘voice’ or feeling or attitude, but the ones that I latch onto are those that speak TO ME. They make a conversation jump between your mind and the words on the page. It’s entertainment without the visual effects.

E-mailing is a big deal nowadays. I notice even my ex-high school students developing this way of essentially talking to me with their typed words. They use ellipses for when they trail off and ‘um’s’ as if they really did have a pause in thought as in speech. I adore it, and it makes their writings to me more ‘real.’ I feel that this particular form of communication which has recently applied to our lives easily falls under the statement that Ong made concluding that “writing from the beginning did not reduce orality but enhanced it, making it possible to organize the ‘principles’ ..into a scientific ‘art’,.. (Ong 9). As I read their e-mails to me, I can visualize them speaking to me. It makes that communication with them more raw and artistic for me and for them perhaps.

B. Communicating in the Classroom
During my two years as a high school English teacher, I got the lovely job of creating/putting together their newspaper and yearbook as well as instructing the class that would do so. In the packets I received for the yearbook, many of the lessons were to be taught using a projector, etc to throw the images onto the wall. Images along with words and sound (instructing voices) guided myself and the class along with tutorial after tutorial on how to accomplish certain chunks of the yearboo, how to construct the actual pages, etc. This was amazing to me since I really didn’t know any more than the kids did what was to be done, but for them, it was visual, oral, and literal. Any loss of those three components would have damaged the lesson, and I believe that is because those very tutorials (like others) were computerized teachers. When students have a literary piece of work in front of them and get to hear as well as see what is to be learned or understood, their minds get reached on all these different and fantastic levels. We ended up watching a few over and over to take them in better (they went quite fast), but overall, the effect was stupendous. This helpful secondary orality mixed with visual aids got us to levels that would have not have been achieved with just my oral description of what to do or with just a copy of the manual itself.

C. Religion and Primary Orality
For some reason, when I started to question my religious beliefs, it all came down to the simple fact that these verses, psalms, and stories had been written down by people that perhaps had heard it from a long line of others who could have CHANGED the story. I think back to my own stories from my childhood, and in my own mind I have embellished them (already in only 25 years!)! Imagine what could have happened in Jesus’ time! I appreciate this primary orality that began our existence and look up to those cultures/generations that treasure the gift of telling a story to the next batch of listeners. Yet, I still use that crack (as well as others in other theories) in primary orality, though, to explain to others my issue with orgainzed religion.

D. My Own Applications: Hypertextually Speaking
How will I incorporate this theory? I have always wanted my hypertext writings to be more oral since they are already easy to read (literary aspect) and visual (easy on eyes, but interesting). I have not decided, yet, how much orality I want, nor how to incorporate it. The biggest and most attractive idea I have had so far has been to have some sort of way of allowing my readers/audience of my writings to listen to them... have a link or sound bite on each ‘node’ so those that don’t want to bother hurting there eyes with the computer screen can listen OR to simply add the effect of being read to. Since my hypertext (the most expansive one I have done) is muli-vocal, I could add that aspect too which would really make the hypertext have the feel that I want it to- that MANY people are telling the same story. To have a young girl’s voice for my main character, and various other voices for other characters seems so awesome from my storytelling point of view. It will give each character an attitude found in voice that can not be picked up from a page, or screen for that matter. This somewhat takes away from the imagination involved when reading a text where the reader gets to create how the person looks and their voice, etc. But, on my first ‘page’, I have drawn little pictures of the characters cartoon-style, so I have already taken away that aspect too. What would be different for me would be to take those images out and allow the reader only to have words and sound to develop the characters. (I am really thinking outloud here.)

Along with adding to the linkage of stories I have, I would like to add music to my web page overall. Not anything horrible to listen to or anything with words, but some simple background music (like Enya? or does that conflict with copyright laws?) so the readers of my page are automatically ‘feeling’ through listening how my web page should be taken. This space that I suddenly inhabit on the web will then have the attitude/personality I want people to see as if they had entered my own home or personal space.

Besides adding to my own hypertext, Katey and I have an idea for a project that includes teachers as real human beings (imagine that!!) and it would add to our site to have sound bits or movie clips of teachers making asses of themselves or telling a story that goes completely wrong because they have lost their train of thought (like how the Native Americans are immigrants.. yea, that was me.) Plus, we are hoping to gather stories from other people and to somehow add their voice to the piece would be great too.

Of all these ideas, I still have to learn HOW to put sound onto pages! That is the big goal, and once that is accomplished, WHO KNOWS!

E. Conclusion
Basically, although this theory confuses me at times, it definitely aided me in thinking about what else I would want to do electronic communication-wise with my own projects.