Bowl of soup with a spoon on it, with the letters ABC.

Ideas On.. Orality and Literacy 

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In “Speaking, Writing, and Literacy” § in “Old Media, New Media, and Knowledge” from J. D. Applen, We touch on the meanings behind Orality and Literacy. J.D Applen ideas and take on the whole meaning of it and what that might look like.  “Orality” is a word from Walter Ong who uses it to describe or characterize speech. Literacy is used to describe written language, Walter Ong describes the importance of communication, the way it can affect the way “we think and understand our worlds.” 

During the reading, I found it very interesting when Ong mentioned that people in oral cultures do not learn like people do in written cultures. Personally I never really thought about the way they might learn. I think I always thought that maybe everyone has the same learning whether that is in oral or written.

Ong goes on to explain the idea on how oral culture is based on the “practice of apprenticeship.” Once acquired had to be constantly repeated or it would be lost; fixed, formulaic thought patterns were essential for wisdom and effective administration” (23). 

Oral culture

In oral culture, people took philosophy, reading and other ideas by hearing it. And not reading it like most of us would. We learned in the reading that plato lamented the idea of people losing the will to practice oral communication. Plato thought we would lose the ability to remember if we began to write things down. 

However that is not the case, J.D Applen uses a prime example. Of the time we wrote something down and others have read it. They have had an opinion on it and reacted to what you wrote. There might be some things that they need some clarifications and you do exactly that. You have to rephrase it and defend your writing. This wouldn’t have been done had you not had someone reading what you wrote. This is a prime example of how literacy comes into play with orality. How literacy is just as important and helpful. 

According to Ong, “ the written word also allows us  to produce more abstractly sequential, classfactory, explanatory, examination of phenomena or stated truths.” Just like the text stated, I am a person who likes to go back into the text. Look it over a couple of times if I don’t get it or I would like to remember it. Sometimes I am the type of person who likes to process what I have just read. The whole notion of orality would not sit well with me because of that. I am the type of person who is in fact depending on the literate notion of it. 

Idea on literacy vs Orality

The idea on orality is regarded very highly for me. I believe that the literacy overview is better doesn’t mean that I think the orality part or it sucks. Orality is just like J.D stated from Ong, “skillful”oral text could have been when they wrote Homer “Odyssey”. ” before the odyssey was ever written down, it existed as oral narratives that poets would memorize and deliver to an audience.” 

Personally I found thought to be quite incredible and like they mentioned before, very skillful. I would never be able to recite or even memorize something like that. In order to memorize a large amount of text you would have to know a poetic rhythm in every line. Which would allow people to remember what was to be said regarding the text.

Overall orality is definitely a skillful tool that most people I know don’t really have. I am a person who in fact don’t have that skill. I am a person who has to write things down in order to come into terms with memorizing the criteria. While there are some people who may not need that way of remembering things. I do commend the people who do. Ong mentioned great points and prime examples on how a person who uses orality or practices it is just as skillful. Just like a person who uses literacy. I think both literacy and orality complement each other.


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