Secondary Orality is like how Shakespeare's play writing impacted societies understanding of common themes in humanity and ideas of humility.

Secondary Orality: Applying What We Know to Multimedia “Texts”


Casey Ferguson

Our use of our secondary orality is impacted by the media and various forms of “text” in our everyday lives. But, we must first understand this idea of “orality”.

Orality is the quality of how one is able to communicate verbally. This concept is then broken down into different kinds of orality.

Primary orality as described by J.D. Applen in, Writing for the Web: Composing, Coding, and Constructing Web Sites:

“describes the way people spoke, heard, and thought before the age of literacy (pg.6).”

With this knowledge in our pockets, we can now move on to understand the term secondary orality.

Defining Secondary Orality

Just as he described primary orality, J.D. Applen also defines secondary orality.

He states, “describes the speaking and listening skills of people influenced by their literate background… (pg.6).”

As understood from the reading, depending on someone’s knowledge of written texts impacts their secondary orality. If you read more complex words or long texts you will be more likely to have more complex orality. If you read basic texts and shorter pieces of text your orality will come across as basic.

The reading Writing for the Web: Composing, Coding, and Constructing Web Sites also describes a great deal about the different oral cultures which impact orality. A culture that bases its communication on the spoken word would not understand orality through written literacy. These cultures don’t exist nowadays since we are a generation where our communication is based on what we read.

Secondary Orality and Multimedia Outlets

Living in a digital world, secondary orality is a part of almost all of our forms of communication. How we communicate in a digital space differs based on our secondary orality.

The way we write out a text message versus an email. The way I write an email or text may be different based on vocabulary, punctuation, and structure. A friend of mine types her texts out in all lowercase letters and uses abbreviations. While I use correct punctuation and use complete words or phrases.

Different forms of multimedia like television, radio, scripted video content and some podcasts all in some way rely on written text. Now that our communication relies on multimedia platforms our secondary orality is impacted by what we are influenced by online.

This makes secondary orality in multimedia forms difficult because what we are exposed to online is based on our likes or searches. So our oralities online are based on what content is presented to us. This would differ from person to person. This is a dangerous trend because based on what we read online we are developing biased secondary oralities. Especially when multimedia platforms are influencing us and what we are consuming.

It is interesting to see this play out in real-time. Our country is currently divided based on political beliefs. An individual that leans more right would read, watch, and encounter media that appeals to these beliefs. Whether the information is true or not. This goes for an individual with stronger leftist beliefs as well.

This division in secondary orality on these platforms bleeds into our verbal communication. This then leads to conflicts within communication both in person and on multimedia platforms.


One response to “Secondary Orality: Applying What We Know to Multimedia “Texts””

  1. […] oral cultures possessed primary orality. Our modern literate society, in contrast, possesses secondary orality. This just means that the way we speak and interact with information is affected by our underlying […]

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