My Journal



Digital Orality for the Illiterate or Sensory-Impaired

Another consideration for the potential application of digital orality is for those not currently able to read. Digital orality can be a great way for an illiterate person to communicate. That is, it seems theoretically possible to train one to use a basic recording application and microphone. While a truly and fully illiterate person would not be able to decipher all the commands, messages, and features displayed on screen, he or she could be shown where/what certain commands are, how to use them, and where to save files.

NOTE: I acknowledge the negative connotations that can arise with the term “illiterate.” I use the this term as oppose to non-literate, since, n the context of my discussions within this blog, this latter term tends to refer more to pre-literate cultures.

Admittedly, I have little knowledge of the subject, but I would assume few people are completely illiterate and unable to decipher any letters at all, unless of course, the letters are the lingala translation of a simple English text; which is again, a rarity. Rather, I would think there are varying degrees of illiteracy and that most people who are not fully literate can still read many words, merely by exposure to them (on/off, stop, gas, etc.). However, even for those individuals that know no words and are unable to read at all, there could still be some type of base codification, i.e q, qq, qqq, qqqq, q1, qq1, qqq1, and so on.

Clearly there are many possibilities and aspects of this theory to work out. However, my point is that digital orality could be presented to illiterates as a communication tool (a way to present their own ideas) and the processes could be learned. The downside to this is it sounds like I am promoting the continuance of illiteracy by presenting a work-around. On the contrary, learning the functionality of the tool could very well have the effect of helping the speaker to understand the words associated with the commands and features.

Digital orality could also serve as a communication tool for the blind, assuming it is not already (I’ll see what I can discover about this). As it is now, the blind can receive audio files and even receive text read to them in audio form (software). Therefore, the element of orality is increased if the individual is able to navigate and search solely with vocal commands. This could of course, apply to the illiterate individual, as well.

To continue this line of thought to the hearing impaired, an entirely deaf individual may not be able to fully experience aural delivery, but a video delivery is a benefit, as it adds a level of humanity that is missing in the printed word. A hearing impaired individual can read a text, but it is still a text (not to negate the worth of the written medium, but merely to discuss alternate methods of communication and delivery). The presence of an on-screen individual adds that level of humanity in that it is actually a person delivering the content. The speaker’s lips could be read, there could be subtitles, so that the viewer is in part reading but with the on-screen presence of a person. Also, the speaker could sign or there could be an inset signer.

Upon first examination, this idea seems to not differ greatly from television, which can have all of this. However, there are a number of differences. The speaker could be an entirely digital avatar, that can present a sort on animated presentation of existing text or audio. Granted this point may not fulfill the “humanity” that I previously noted, at least not to the same extent; yet, it does personify the message. Also, the speaker could be real but the inset signer could be digital. If there is not, currently, it seems easy enough for one to design an application, a plug-in, that would translate spoken word to a signer. We now have speech-to-text software; it seems a small jump to create a digital, signing avatar. But the largest difference over TV is navigation. The hearing impaired individual has all of the navigational features of the Web.

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