Once a rock always a rock?

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it never was.

In the world of ecology, things are never the same, only evolving. In my intro to this project, I talked about the story of the wolves of Yosemite. 14 wolves had amazingly positive results, but is Yosemite’s ecology the exact same as it was before everything when south? No. It can never be.

And this is the underlining principle of – once you go literate, orality is gone forever. You can never go back. All the thought leaders are conscientious when they use “orality” after the written word. They get very intricate in their choices of words and phrases: primal orality, oral sensibilities, oral residue, postliterate.

Lately, in my mind, I’ve begun to think about orality and literacy in a geological sense. Imagine Orality and Literacy in an ever-evolving process of erosion and sedimentation. Mixing to make different forms. Never again the original form. Requiring a lot of time and energy to mutate.

So, of course, it’s not orality, in the truest sense. The academics are spot on to avoid the word. On the other side, my non-academic says – stop your fancy words! It’s a rock.

To the laymen, it’s a rock, a cloud, a tree. For the masses to truly take on a concept, I feel we need a generic “word.” For all the colours of the rainbow, the average person still can say red, blue, green. I want orality to have the same understanding.

But Orality doesn’t generalize.

However…. this is where my literate mind starts having a small temper tantrum.

I’ve been struggling with an interesting and challenging thought. In purest orality, in what I’ve been reading, there are no generalizations. The ability to create a group of “X” goes out the window.

Everything has a unique and contextual quality void of the need for broad strokes. It’s no wonder why we wonder why there seem to be countless names of the same animal in different phases of life, why there could be 12 words for rain or snow in some cultures. It may be because, in an oral culture, it was unique and required a name unto itself, specific for the context.

And with this in mind, dialects and the history of language variations start to make a bit more sense.

In my pride of pattern recognition, when I create a view of my world, it’s worse than never the same again, it was never all the same in the first place.

What does this mean?

Simply put, fragmentation. More fragmentation in meaning. More fragmentation in thought. Worse yet, overlapping and unrelated fragmentation of the same things. Different intent and “meaning” for the same thing.

As technology has been advancing, I think some of this fragmentation is occurring naturally. We’re losing our ability to put things into buckets. It’s dividing and amalgamating— erosion and sedimentation. Here are a few examples:

  • Is Facebook part of the medium of the internet, or a medium unto itself? How do we categorize it across devices? Is Facebook on your phone the same as a browser?
  • What is a podcast? What is this clubhouse app? What is social audio, and what makes these things “different” than audio experiences before?
  • When twitter does roll out their “spaces” to everyone… what does that make them?

Bye-bye generalizations. What’s more interesting is your Youtube might not be my Youtube. Now imagine that for everyday words like “bank,” or “book,” or “spoke.” The same word – different connotations with unique contextual awareness for each.

I imagine the fragmentation is going to increase. But unlike previous geographical divisions, it will be a reflection of our community, or probably more like an amalgamation of communities, within this global village.

Here’s one last example you need to ponder and maybe ask your friends:

Question: What book did you last read?
Question 2: Did you actually “read” it, or was it an audiobook?

Photo by Matthew Kosloski on Unsplash

Originally posted on Substack