caveman writing words on stone with a stick

The words—they’re alive!



“Spoken words are alive; written words are dead.”

Seeing this up on the board boggled my mind. Yes, I was mildly aware of this debate. But had I ever been directly asked my opinion on it? No. And the truth is, it is far more complex than I could have ever imagined.

What has Applen done?

In “Writing for the Web: Composing, Coding, and Constructing Web Sites“, J. D. Applen undeniably composed beautifully analytic input.

Applen differentiates Ong’s definition of primary orality and secondary orality by specifying it before the age of literacy and after its revolutionary effects.

The way I like to think of it is, that before the age of literacy, people had no backbone to their ports of communication. It was just the process of composing words for a purpose. The purpose of the communication varies, yet one thing is true. A time for planning and reflecting on one’s words was nonexistent. Applen provides a great example. The telling of The Odyessy!

She mentions how much improvisation was present before the age of literacy. The story was tweaked by Homer every time it was told, simply because there was no place to serve as a record.

Moving On

Yet, I am not here to argue the benefits of writing on humanity as a whole. It lies in every corner of society. In every nook of our minds.

People who have never learned to read or write the language they speak would speak differently.

(Applen, 10)

Human awareness and thinking were undoubtedly transformed through the evolution of communicational technologies. How we speak today is through the technology that is writing. When thinking about it, I don’t believe there is a universe in which humans could have any other choice.

Take the telling of the Odyessy as an example again: Since that story now exists in a printed text, it will never have the ability to change without there being a record of its difference. Before that, it was probably ever-changing… now that I’m thinking about it… the Bible?

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