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Lecture 3

Week 3 Reading Notes

Course Code
CMNS 110
Gary Mc Carron

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The Persistence of the Word by James Gleick (pp. 256-268)
Walter Ong – Jesuit priest, philosopher, cultural historian
- Declared the electronic age to be a new age of orality; “secondary orality” with radio,
telephone and television
The written word is the mechanism by which we know what we know.
Writing – requires premeditation and special art
- When word is instantiated onto paper, it takes on a separate existence as artifice
- A product of tools, and is a tool
- Helps retain information across time and space
- Enables re-use and re-collection
- An intrusion into culture; laid the basis for the destruction of the oral way of life and oral
modes of thought
Plato said writing will produce forgetfulness of minds.
- Writing is an elixir not of memory, but of reminding
- Offers pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom
- External characters which are no part themselves
oWritten word seemed insincere
oAppeared to draw knowledge away from the person
oSeparated the speaker from the listener by miles or years
oOne can speak to many; dead to living, living to unborn
Pictographic – writing the picture
Ideographic – writing the idea
Logographic – writing the word
Logic – descended from the written word
- Does exist without writing
- Turns the act of abstraction into a tool for determining what is true and what is false
Marshall McLuhan – famous spokesman for bygone oral culture
- New electric age as the return to the roots of human creativity
- Revival of old orality
Monochronic and Polychronic Time by Edward T. Hall (pp. 42-49)
Complex societies organize time in at least 2 different ways:
1. Monochronic – events scheduled as separate items – one thing at a time (North European)
2. Polychronic – involvement in several things at once (Mediterranean)
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