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February 8, 2010

My opinion is a broken record

In Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age, in Walter Ong's section, titled, "Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought," I found more evidence to support my opinion that oral communication is in more ways better than written communication.

On page 319, Ong says, "Plato's Socrates complains, a written text is basically unresponsive. If you ask a person to explain his or her statement, you can get at least an attempt at explanation: if you ask a text, you get nothing except the same, often stupid words which called for your question in the first place."

Thanks Ong and Socrates. I feel like I've been saying this the whole semester, thus far. My opinion is that text though may in some forms make you feel certain ways, my make you think differently and may even "speak" volumes to your soul, but it cannot speak to you. I think that you're missing out on so much if you can not have a conversation with a whatever material you're dealing with.

Oral communication on the other hand, talks back to you, answers your questions about its material and interacts with you. Maybe it's because I perfer to learn through interaction and physically doing something (although I would consider myself a visual learner, I don't learn anything if I'm not engrossed in it). But, what I don't understand is how you can learn anything without knowing the entire concept of what is going on, I think you can only learn all of that information through oral communication. Don't get me wrong, I love books, but I also have questions that go unanswered, in conversation, that doesn't happen. Though someone can withhold information, who really does that when you're staring them dead in the eye?

This argument is hard to make through writing. Which Ong also says later in his article on page 319, "...the written word cannot defend itself as the natural spoken word can: real speech and thought always exist essentially in the context of the struggle. Writing is passive, out of it, in an unreal, unnatural world. Maybe I'll be better able to form this argument in class when I can actually use emotion and speak, instead of writing these lifeless words. 


Maybe we can look at oral and written communication in another light: oral communication can fail in circumstances just as written words can succeed in communicating to someone. Oral communication has the advantage of being immediately responded to in some manner, though it can often enough respond in a negative form that belies all niceties (or has the trappings of nice with bite in the words like a courtroom). I think that written communication affords you the ability to read something, leave and think on your own or maybe look something up, and return to reading. As for people withholding information when you're looking them dead in the eye, I just think of individuals who are trained to lie when taking polygraph tests. If they can lie to a lie detector, I think everyone else has the ability to lie to other people.

Maddie, though you offer some good points, I still have to take the side of oral. Though I didn't mention this in my blog I did in class, when I said that I think it takes more knowledge and skill to be able to communicate through spoken word because of the having to think on your feet aspect. Anyone can read something and look up something else to make an argument, but it takes some true skill to be able to make an argument without the proper references right at hand.

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