on March 13, 2012
If you judge only by the book's title, the book could seem uninteresting or dried. But the story is totally different. It is astonishingly thought-provoking and eye-opening. It makes me perplexed that there are not any single review of this great and classic book. In human history, writing or literacy is a very recent phenomenon, only about 6000 years old, though most of us think that it has been with us from the beginning, together with oral speech. In fact, this misconception could lead easily to insufficient and distorted understanding of human communications and finally mankind itself. OK, let's assume that someone has a sketch knowledge that sometime long ago in ancient times, in Mesopotamia or Egypt, the first letters or pictographs came to be invented and used, from which and then through Phoenicians, English alphabet came into being. But, only with it, he or she cannot comprehend many significant and various aspects in human culture and mind. The influence and impact of orality and literacy on us is by far wider and deeper than we normally think or guess. Still many peoples live without written letters and only very recently we have come to see and use alphabets in daily lives. Considering orality's much longer history, literacy is a unfamiliar and in some sense, strange one. Without the full grasp of how our ancestors had thought without any visual letters, we cannot access or imagine their minds. This book gives you the right way to understand how our ancestors see their world differently from us and how our thinking are being changed by shift from orality to letters. Marvellous and readable book. If your interests are mind, language, anthropology and communication, you will definatley enjoy reading this.
on January 6, 2013
One of the most impactful books on my way of thinking that I've come across, Ong's descriptions of written word, space, speaking, and consciousness are incredibly interesting. The book is full of ideas and concepts that have become so valuable in this connected age of information overdose. His research on spoken word vs writing have implications for how we now carry around our external 'memory' in the forms of kindles, laptops, smartphones and other digital devices. Are we coming back to a pre-literate world in which orality dominates? no. Are we approaching a time when the two will have to make room for each other in a multi-literate world? perhaps...
Understanding the impacts of each is essential for choosing the right communication for the right task. Digging deeper in to the histories of orality and writing that will continue to grow in importance, and there's no where better to start than with Ong and his insights.