And on and on and on…

A characteristic of oral culture

It’s time for the next review of one of Ong’s characteristics of an Oral culture.

Additive rather than subordinative

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

At the heart of it, Oral cultures avoid subordinate thought. There is no real order per se but a series of “and”s.

Joe went to sleep. And Joe plowed his field. And Joe drank a cup of coffee. And Joe ate dinner. And Joe walked to the store.

What order was any of that?

To an oral culture – does it really matter?

Based on A.R. Lauria’s Cognitive Development, it could be based on an oral mind’s ability to deduce and infer. Without relevant experience, it refuses the question. Here is one of many examples they posed to oral people:

All precious metals do not rust. Gold is a precious metal. Does it rust or not?

What the study founds was pretty fascinating. Out of those without any relevant experience, most (85%) were unable to or flat out wouldn’t solve the question posed. They didn’t care, thought the question was stupid or was dumbfounded why anyone would ask. It made had no relevance to them and their situation.

Of people who did have some experience, for example, had seen a piece of gold, they didn’t solve the questions by a landslide, only 60%. There were still subjects that refused. Only after being given additional, conditional assumptions of practical situations would the others, with experience, solve the question posed.

Interesting side note: Back to the group surveyed without any experience. Did you do the math? Not everyone refused. 15% could work through the inference without help. Perhaps this is nature? Perhaps this is the spice of life? Take a read through Who moved my cheese?

And then…?

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman brought up the “And now this…” culture. One that is ok with non-linear experiences. The phrase taken from newscasts outlines our new ability to detach from linear experiences. To switch seamlessly from graphic violence to a feel-good comedy without missing a beat. All it takes is a click of the button, and voila, new feelings.

Today we have additive experiences every day. When you find a new blog, do you start at the beginning? Facebook posts, tweets, grams, snaps, stream after stream, is there a semblance of order or hierarchy to them? No.

What’s more interesting is in some of these “streams” of additive moments, they remove any sequential nature – with algorithms bringing to the forefront popular posts from friends weeks ago folded into the present.

Now, what about binge-watching? That’s linear. Right? There may be a linear and subordinate nature to it, but only in the show itself. What about the context of the world? Where you are in your own experience might not be aligned with your friends. We have learned to remove expectations or assumptions of order onto others – they may be ahead or behind.

And because we can no longer have any expectation of order, we treat each other as beings of additive experiences.

Jeff ate dinner. And Jeff watched Game of Thrones. And Jeff shared his pictures at the park. And Jeff tweeted that meme. And Jeff texted Joe. And Jeff slept.

What order was any of that?

Does it really matter?

Originally posted on Substack