Is our society becoming post-l

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

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Is our society becoming post-literate? Thousands of years have passed since our culture invented an alphabet to allow spoken words to be permanently recorded. This 'great leap' from orality to literacy had many consequences that will be discussed here. However, many other technologies have come into existence since the alphabet was invented and it has been suggested that we have moved beyond a stage of basic literacy into a new kind of 'post-literacy' or 'secondary orality' (Ong 1982), brought about by these new technologies. This essay will look at the differences between an oral culture and a literate one, describe the effects of literacy upon society, and look at technological breakthroughs, such as the Gutenberg press and more modern inventions such as television, telephone and computers, to see whether we are entering a new era in our progression from oral communication. I will try to examine if this supposed post-literacy, created by new means of communication, is a new stage in our development with profound effects on the structure of our society and look at how different life is with modern technology than life with simple literacy.

I will start by comparing orality and literacy to illustrate the deep implications of each. An oral culture is one in which all communication is by talking and listening. The fact that there is no means of writing anything down means that all values and morals of the given society are stored in the minds of the people. As cultural knowledge is so deeply embedded into stories and ritual the concept of knowledge actually existing as a separate entity is non-existent in an oral society. Walter Ong (1982) says that in these kinds of societies knowledge is performed through the telling of stories and the carrying out of rituals. There is no separation...