Thursday, January 12, 2006

CW 2006 Proposal: Ong's Digital Turn

Computers and Writing 2006 (as opposed to Computers and Writing Online 2006) proposals are due Jan. 15. Call for Papers | Submission Form. For what it's worth, here's my proposal:

“Ong’s Digital Turn: Published and Unpublished Writings after Orality and Literacy”

Although the merits and particulars of Walter Ong’s study of orality-literacy contrasts are the subject of some debate, the influence of Ong’s work on many who study computers and writing and digital culture is not. While Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word remains his most influential and widely known work, Ong continued to work with orality-literacy contrasts for another 15 years, much of it focusing on the role of digitization. Ong’s digital turn can be found in such publications as “Hermeneutic Forever: Voice, Text, Digitization, and the ‘I’” (1995), “Information and/or Communication Interactions” (1996), and “Digitization, Ancient and Modern: Beginnings of Writing and Today’s Computers” (1998), but it can not be fully understood without considering such unpublished works as the short talk “Secondary Oralism and Secondary Visualism,” the article “Time, Digitization, and Dali’s Memory,” and the unfinished 40,000-word manuscript Language as Hermeneutic: A Primer on the Word and Digitization.

This presentation will summarize and contextualize Ong’s digital turn and identify a number of its implications for technorhetoricians and others seeking to apply Ongian thought to digital culture, including such issues such as the debate over Ong’s thought, the use and misuse of secondary orality, visualism, the relationship of digital technologies to analog electronic technologies, and the role of digitization in Western Culture. The purpose of this presentation is not to argue that Ong’s digital turn was groundbreaking or that its implications will revolutionize the study of digital culture. Rather, the goal of this presentation is to bring to light Ong's own reworking of orality-literacy contrasts after the publication of Orality and Literacy so that we may better understand his thought as we continue to use it as a point of departure for our own work.
Cross posted to Notes from the Walter J. Ong Archives.

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