How Has Written Communication Changed the Tradition of Oral Culture?

1 January 2017

Written communication has changed the tradition of primary oral cultures by making information and literature permanent. Through the progression of the book, resulting in the remediation of literacy, the human consciousness has been transformed by the ability to conceptualise communication. Writing has given humans the capacity and means to store information in a transportable and easily accessible form. As Walter Ong writes, “a primary oral culture is that which has been untouched by writing” (p. 31), meaning there was no visual form of communication for people to grasp onto and evolve from.

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Traditional oral culture is one based on speech and movement, a language focused on people and what is available to them. Writing in the early forms began the transformation of the human consciousness by connecting the spoken word to a written form, enabling people to conceptualise speech and communication. The human consciousness can be explained as the psyche of a person, their mind and body (Collins English Dictionary 2009). As we evolve, the necessity of technology increases, not only through the need of remediation but in creation as well.

We as a collective are forced out of our moulds that outdated technology created, but we are also shaping the new moulds of which we will fit once the technology has been remediated. We transform what we use and how we use it, and it therefore changes and transforms our psyche, our consciousness, because it pushes us to use it in different ways, for example from people congregating around a religious scripture to being able to download it in a summarised version in the click of the mouse.

Digital literacy acts as a catalyst and has transformed the psyche a step beyond what was possible with paper back, it has opened what once was the niche of the internet and defined the time we live in as the information age. As a result, the writing space has been evolved from speech to paper, to book, to computer, to Internet, therefore making it global and permanent. It promotes people to store their own memories and take advantage of their writing space.

Writing space, on the authority of Bolter, is the writers mind and mental environment as well as the physical environment, it is a result of “material properties and cultural choices and practices” (p. 12). It is a way of externalising ideals and ideas. The human consciousness has been transformed through the remediation of old technologies in writing to new. This enabled people to conceptualise and utilise oral communication, and to store and retrieve information through digital means.

Technology has been a catalyst in the development of the psyche and has defined the passed decade as the information age. None of which would have been possible without the invention of writing.

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