My Journal



Digital Orality for the Illiterate or Sensory-Impaired (Part 2)

“In a literate culture verbatim memorization is commonly done from a text, to which the memorizer returns as often as necessary to perfect and test verbatim mastery.” (Orality and Literacy 57).

This cumbersome memorization process is not necessary on the digital orality realm. The podcaster can use a script for verbatim recitation and an outline to stay on task and get close to the intended topic. Related to the discussion of memorization, in this post, I return to the discussion from (12.29.2007) regarding Digital Orality for the Illiterate or Sensory-Impaired.

“… illiterate singers in modern former Yugoslavia develop and express attitudes toward writing. …They admire literacy and believe that a literate person can do even better what they do, namely recreate a lengthy song after hearing it only once. This is precisely what literates cannot do, or can do only with difficulty. As literates attribute literate kinds of achievement to oral performers, so oral performers attribute oral kinds of achievement to literates.” (Orality and Literacy 60-1).

Given Ong’s discussion, how well could an illiterate individual produce a podcast? Probably very well. As noted in the original post, if shown the process, he or she could likely comprehend it and be able to repeat it. Given current user interaction design, he or she would need little textual interaction (if any) for navigation and control. It is all on-screen; that is, it is all visual with the use of icons. The user would need to save it, but that too could be accomplished with the training of the hierarchical structure and some very basic characters, letters, and/or numbers to use for labeling. Today’s illiterates (those in the digital world) are aware of text. This is a very different situation than primary oral (non-literate) cultures that have no concept of written or printed words. Illiterates today are aware of text, that they cannot read or comprehend it, and that it is a societal downfall. [By “today’s illiterate” I refer to someone who unable to read. However, there are varying levels of illiteracy, since the terms could refer to someone with no understanding of the alphabet, one who can read a first-grade level, one who can read at a 6th-grade level, or anything in between.] What is the official definition of “functionally illiterate? – I think that would resolve any confusion and ambiguity I have; I will research this.

This process of illiterates learning podcasting and other new media could be a motivator to learn to read. Additionally, reading could happen merely be use and exposure. This is to say, assuming an individual could function and produce the media without the use of text (entirely conceivable with today’s UI technology), the screen and applications would not be devoid of text. Rather, many of the functions and features the individual used by icon would still be labeled, thus repetitively showing the individual the word for that action. In this way, we can see that the process could be applied not just to illiterates, but as a fun, motivational, and educational method for young students learning both to read and to use the computer.

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