Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Spent some of the day reading essays on databases and text encoding in A Companion to Digital Humanities. I'm reading the essays because I'm supposed to help with getting Dr. Thomas Walsh's Ong Bibliography online by playing interpreter between the techies (Information Technology Services) and non-techies (people in the English Department), and because the University Archivist is contemplating the merits of databases vs. text encoding to manage and search archival records. I have no idea what's going to happen with the Ong Bibliography, but on the issue of archival records, we're shying away from an either/or decision and thinking the answer may be both, ideally a database that creates both MARC records and XML. That way there's a database for internal record keeping and searching, and both the MARK records and XML (probably EAD) finding guide for users to search. Something like re:discovery would be awesome, but right now we've got Microsoft Access.

I didn't learn much from reading the articles, but I did get some good quotes from the database article which support what I want to argue in "Memory and the Art of Database." My favorite is the passage, "Prudence would suggest that only a few privileged users should possess the ability to create and destroy databases, and that a broader (but not unlimited) set of users be able to add data to existing databases" (Ramsey, Stephen, "Databases," 192). Clearly the fear here is not only "forgetting" -- the destruction of records -- but disorder, which is why you want to limit who can create databases and who can add to them. I find this so interesting because the great sin of memory in the Middle Ages was not forgetting but loosing control over what you remember, of disorder, and it was a sin against the virtue of Prudence.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Yesterday, Dr. Jim Scott, a SLU English professor and a documentary film maker, came with a small crew to film the Ong Collection exhibit and interview me about the collection and the April Ong Conference. They asked basic questions like who I was, what I was doing, what kinds of materials one could find in the collection, etc. Questions about the conference were mosly geared towards getting sound bites about the plenary speakers Catherine Snow, Roy Shafer, and Charles Taylor.

As I understand it, the footage is going to be used as part of a short promotional video to help raise money for the Ong Center, and the interview will be used for short clips rather than presented as an interview. I don't know whether or not they will, but I'm going to sugggest that they consider uploading the video and linking it to the Ong Project pages.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Posted to TechRhet by Clancy Ratliff on behalf of the Computers and Writing Online 2005 conference organizers:

When Content Is No Longer King: Social Networking, Community, and Collaboration

The 2005 Computers and Writing Online Conference begins on Tuesday, May 31, and runs through Monday, June 13. This is the first-ever online conference in our field to be open-access, Creative Commons-licensed, and hosted on a weblog, and it promises to be innovative and insightful. We set out to perform the concepts and values of the conference theme -- networking, community, and collaboration -- in our review process, which was open to the public and emphasized group interaction and helpful, supportive feedback. The responders have done an excellent job engaging the authors' ideas, and the authors' responses to the feedback they received have really demonstrated how enriching this public, collaborative model can be for scholarly work. The conference organizers would like to extend a big "Thank you!" to the authors and the responders. Included with each abstract in this announcement is the link to the original; we strongly encourage you to read the comments.

As with the abstracts, the presentations are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, and anyone with an account at Kairosnews (registration is free) can leave comments. For more information, visit the CW Online 2005 weblog: http://kairosnews.org/cwonline05/home

Drawing upon the conference's theme of exploring the increasing value of the network and collaborative practices within it, presenters examine the role(s) played by social networking applications and other
technologies that are intended to foster social interaction, community, and collaboration. Alongside studying the technologies themselves, presenters will observe and describe the ways that writers and users are engaging the technologies and how such engagement is changing our ideas about writing and teaching writing, and, more broadly, the concepts of rhetoric and composition themselves. We very much hope you'll get involved by leaving your comments, or, if you prefer, respond on your own weblog and leave a trackback! Or write a response on your wiki! Or tag presentations on your del.icio.us or de.lirio.us list! You get the idea. This conference is meant to be networked.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

What disturbs me most about Michael Bugeja's Inside Higher Ed piece The Medium is the Moral is that he characterizes McLuhan's "the medium is the message" as a truism "based on 40 years of communication scholarship." Bugeja's basic argument, or at least his conclusion, is that Duke's iPod experiment failed because "even the power of this compact device --- its incredible storage and future academic potential -- may not be enough to overcome the message of music downloads at $1 per pop." Bugeja seems ignorant to the play involved in McLuhan's oft quoted statement (see Meyrowitz's comments in my Machina Memorialis post).

While I'm not going to argue that an iPod is an optimal content delivery system or even that Duke's idea was a particularly good one (though as a rabid MacAddict I was thrilled when they announced the plan). Duke's plan seemed to fail mostly on the grounds that it was pedagogy practice imposed from above, it was implemented too quickly (how much time was anyone given to develop a curriculum around iPod use?), and declared a failure before most people had a chance to figure out what they were doing. In short, it goes against my basic rules for integrating technology into the classroom, which always revolve around some combination of "take your time," "your pedagogy should drive technology rather than technology driving your pedagogy," and "experiment and feel your way around."

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Friday, May 20, 2005

One of the projects I've had to put on hold in order to finish my dissertation is "Memory and the Art of Database," a study of database technologies through history and what light these earlier technologies might shed on computerized database design and use. I'm particularly interested in the inventional aspect of databases which Mary Carruthers explores works such as The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200 and "Inventional Mnemonics and the Ornaments of Style: The Case of Etymology" (Connotations 2.2 (1992): 103-114).

I just found out yesterday that I can attend the Computers and Writing confernece this year, much too late to propose a paper, but not yet too late to participate in the Graduate Research Network. I've just submited my GRN abstract:

"Memory and the Art of Database"

Through the Renaissance, conceptions of memory focused not so much on the distinction between memory stored inside us and outside us but between natural memory, which was always internal, and artificial memory systems, which could be either internal or external. From this perspective, a simple mnemonic rhyme, a stone monument, a memory palace, a book, and a computer database are all equivalent in that they were artificial memory systems. In both the classical and medieval traditions, artificial memory systems were considered an important part of invention. Furthermore, in the medieval memory tradition the real fear was not in forgetting, but in information disorder, which was considered a sin against the virtue of Prudence, therefore memory system design and practice was of no little concern.

This project, which is in its early stages, seeks to place computerized databases in their historical context by examining the practices of early technologies of information storage and retrieval such as topoi, catalogue poems, the Ciceronian "Art of Memory," medieval florilegia, renaissance commonplace-books, indexes, libraries, card catalogues, and even the research paper note card, and exploring what light these earlier memory technologies may hold for what we might call an "art of database."

From an Ongian perspective, how we access and store information -- the databases we use -- helps structure and is structured by how we think. My dissertation itself touches upon these issues. For instance, I have a chapter devoted to Anglo-Saxon non chronological presentation of historical narrative, most notably the Geatish-Swedish wars in Beowulf and Alfred's "Preface to Pastoral Care," though I think you can even see it in such poems as "The Wanderer."

It also ties in nicely with , , and , which I've discussed here from time to time.

Finally, if we want to think about culture as memory (and I do, see Connerton, 28, and Petrov 77-78), then culture itself is a type of database, with social memory as the information and the practices of social memory as the interface. Surely someone working on social networks has made this observation before.

Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Themes in the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.

Petrov, Krinka Vidakovic. “Memory and Oral Tradition.” Memory: History, Culture and the Mind. Wolfson College Lectures. Ed. Thomas Butler. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989. 77-96.

Cross posted to Machina Memorialis.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Steve Krause has a nice short piece on the fear of blogs which made me think of Ong's "The End of the Age of Literacy," which I wrote about on 6 Aug 2004. Among other claims made in the article to which provoked Steve's response is the claim that online communication like blogs are keeping students from learning how to "interact socially in the normal way through verbal communication'" [emphasis mine]. Writing is, apparently, bad for "normal" human development.

Steve notes that this rise in anti-blogishness seems to come largely from the medias most threatened by blogs. This is, of course, the history of media write large. I'm waiting for the day when blogs are used to decry some evil new communications technology as a threat to our literacy and our socialization.

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I reached a milestone today. I've made it through all the big filing cabinets. There's still the index card cabinets to work through, but I think I'm now going to try to integrate all the unfilled papers into the one of three established categories: Publications (includes publication specific correspondence), General Files (includes general correspondence), and Ong sessions/Off-prints. I know it won't all work out smoothly, but that's the way archiving goes.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Yesterday, I gave a long preface to this post, a definition of medium theory from Joshua Meyrowitz's "Taking McLuhan and 'Medium Theory' Seriously: Technological Change and the Evolution of Education" (Technology and the Future of Schooling: Ninety-fifth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. Part II. Ed. Stephen T. Kerr. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996. 73-110).

Meyrowitz writes:

"I prefer using the term 'medium theory' to describe it, so that the essence of the argument and the contributions of other theorists become more visible. I use the singular, 'medium theory,' rather than 'media theory,' to describe this philosophical tradition because what makes it different from most other media theories is its focus on the characteristics of each individual medium or of each particular type of media. Medium theorists are interested in differentiating among media. Broadly speaking, media theorists ask: what are the relatively fixed features of each means of communicating and how do these features make the medium physically, psychologically, and socially different from other media and face-to-face interaction?" (79).

Most of the time I'm doing media studies or media ecology or even orality/literacy studies, that's exactly what I'm interested in doing. It is what I'm trying to figure out in my October 16, 2004 and October 19, 2004 posts, and it's why Professional Lurker was interested in those posts, which were first emails to TechRhet.

More of Merowitz's description of medium theory at Machina Memorialis.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I particularly fond of the term medium theory as a description of one of my major research interests, though I'm often met by blank stares when I use it. Time and again, I'm told that "media studies" would be a much better term. To me, to say one does media studies is like saying one studies literature or rhetoric. True in and of itself, but not overly useful as a short label used to explain the type of research one is to do. I'm not particularly interested in studying film (as media), television, radio, newspapers, magazines, music, and the like, the things people mean when they say "the media." For the most part, my interest really does lie in the medium. I do study "the message" but that's when I wear either my literature or my rhet/comp hats, though, of course, I strongly believe that I'm rarely wearing one hat at a time.

If I listed "literature" as my research interest, people would want to know more, and rightfully so. They want to know if I study French literature or English literature or Greek literature. And any hiring committee is going to want to know even more than that. They'll want to know that my dissertation is on Old English literature and that I have teaching and research interests in Old English, Middle English, and Old Norse literature, in science fiction and fantasy, and in 18th - 20th century medievalism. They're also likely to know that while I do "do" theory, I'm what Rob Pope calls a new eclecticist: I approach literature not from a theoretical perspective but use whatever theories seem most useful to whatever it is I'm trying to do, and that I'm just as likely to apply orality/literacy studies and medium theory, social memory, rhetorical criticism, and cognitive studies/cognitive poetics than I am to use "traditional" theoretical approaches. My dissertation, which explores Old English literature as the social memory of an oral-chirographic transitional culture draws from all of those, and from psychoanalytic criticism (trauma theory specifically), new historicism, postcolonialism as well.

And if I were to list "rhet/comp," "rhetoric," or even "composition studies" on a CV, anyone who doesn't know me is likely to feely slightly duped. Yes I do all three, but my particular focuses are in medieval rhetoric, rhetorical memory, oral/chirographic/print/digital culture, and computers and writing. I'm not interested in writing program administration or assessment or basic writing, etc. I'll read about these topics and I believe I should (and do) know something about them, but at this time I'm not interested in developing a research agenda around them or in teaching courses on these topics. I am quite interested in composition pedagogy, but that is, again, kind of like saying I'm interested in "medieval English literature" but I have no real desire to do serious work on John Gower or Middle English drama or a whole host of other topics which fall under that rubric. Sure I know something about most of them and I'll teach them, and I may even do research on them if my interests lead me in those directions, but my qualifications as a medieval english literature scholar no more means I'm prepared to do serious work with Middle English drama than my qualfiications as compositionist means I'm prepared to do serious work with assessment or writing program administration.

While there's a desire to declare Rhet/Comp a discipline all to itself (a desire I like to poke at but ultimately don't deny), elides over the significant differences between rhetoric and composition studies, differences which are, to my mind, as great as the differences among them and linguistics, creative writing, and literary studies. One can specialize in writing studies and know more about literary studies than one knows about the history of rhetoric, and one can specialize in the history of rhetoric or even contemporary rhetorical theory and have no knowledge of current composition pedagogy. I have nothing against those who want to specialize in any particular field of English studies, but I am bothered by the fact that their desire to create narrow specialties often includes the desire to keep others, including those like me who draw from all the branches, out of their special field. At least that's how I read people like Gerald Nelms, whose WPA-L post I linked to above.

This long roundabout post serves as a preface to what I'll post next time, a definition of medium theory which has made me want to reclaim the term as my own.

cross posted to Machina Memorialis

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I had my first full look at Ong's folder on Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, the Jesuit paelontologist, theologian, who was one of the discoverers of Homo Pekinensis (Sinanthropus), more commonly known as Peking Man. Fr. Ong met Fr. Teilhard in Nov. 1950 when Ong arrived in Paris. The two both lived in the Jesuit house Etudes, 15 Rue Monsieur, for about a year, until Teilhard left for the United States. The two kept in contact until Teilhard's death on Easter Sunday, 1955.

The folder has some letters, a number of items about Teilhard, and Teilhard related topics. Of note is a 17-page typed transcript on Ong talking about Teilhard, taped on 24 Sept. 1965. Here's Ong on Teilhard's influence on Ong's own work:

"It's difficult to know what the exact affect of Father Teilhard on my own work and writing is. There's certainly some. Many of the things he was interested in, I was already interested in, and consequently when I came across his thinking -- I'm often a little at a loss to know just where I owe something to him and where I don't. IN fact, I have to be a little bit careful, as I suppose most people do who are in some kind of active contact with his thought, because it's a very active and fertile type thought and it's likely to set in motion your own thinking and if you don't watch, you'll be attributing things to Teilhard that he doesn't really say, things which he may be in a way responsible for since he's toughed off certain reactions in your own mind.

"I suppose that his -- what's been called his optimism -- was rather attractive to me because I've been accused of something of this sort myself.

"Then, his tendency to, well what you might call the anti-Manichaen tendency, to interpret matter as something which has positive potential -- incidentally which is a very Christian tendency, it's really always been the church's teaching. After all, the Incarnation of Our Lord reminds us that matter is holy, and the devotion to our lady is another reminder of this sort of thing -- this kind of thinking is very congenial to me, and it's one of the things that made Teilhard's thought so attractive to me.

"As a matter of fact, just before I'd left England and came to France, I had written an article which had appeared first in The Month, in London, called "The Lady and the Issue," about the recent definition of the Assumption of our Lady as dogma of the faith, and the psychological implications of this dogma. This article actually made the point that this kind of exhaltation of womanhood, because that's what it is, womanhood, is really a special kind of exhaltation of matter. Our lady gave Our Lord his body. [But I knew nothing of Teilhard at this time.] This is an instance of what I mean of Teilhard's working around in areas where other people were working too and being able to fertilize their thought. Right here you can see how I welcomed the kind of thing that he does. It helped me" (10-11).

Ong's concept of noobiology is clearly connected to Tielhard's noosphere, but as Ong said in the 1965 interview, he'd begun thinking about such issues before encountering either Teilhard or Teilhard's thought.

Farrell's "In Memoriam" contains some on the connections between Ong and Tielhard.

Some sites about Tielhard de Chardin:

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I finally finished working through the letters of reference yesterday.

Today's finds:

7 folders of retreats and sermons
  • Retreat and Sermon Material
  • Conferences for Religious
  • Prayer Groups
  • 3-Day Retreat (2-Day Retreat)
  • Tridra, Days of Recollection
  • Directed Retreats
  • 8-Day Retreats

Psychiatry and Literature seminar material, in the folder SLU: Psychiatry, Department of

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I've mentioned the fact that our plan is to mark up the collection finding guide in Encoded Archival Description for easy searching (2 Feb. 2005, 12 July 2004). It's got me thinking about the use of tagging metadata as a mnemonic function and an excellent way for managing data, and I'd even thought about trying to create a set of key words to mark entries in this blog to easiily find subjects by topic.

So, imagine my delight upon finding an entry on the Depraved Librarian blog which links to the NYT story "'Tags' Ease Sifting of Digital Data". At the bottom of the post were a number of links -- tags -- to sections of Technorati. She was metadata tagging her blog and linking the topics to other Technorati linked sites, to Flickr, Furl, and del.icio.us.

I'm going to try to tag my entries from now on as well as work on back tagging old entries.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I've been working through the two drawers of letters of reference files -- slow going as most are just one page and I have to create and label a new folder for each person. As most of these files are confidential and as access to them will be restricted, there really isn't much to say about them other than it is slow, labor-intensive work. I am learning something about the letter of recommendation genre, however. I've been asked to write a few in the past and seeing some four decades of letters of recommendations written by Ong has given me another perspective.

While I've been working on these recommendation files for a few days now, today's work was dogged by a new problem. Each file gets labeled "Ref: + name of person" and instead of writing "Ref" I've been writing "Href" far too often. There's clearly some sort of interiorization of HTML going on here.

Eira Aringay's and David Davo's Walter Ong Wiki Project is now up. Eira comments and reflects upon the research process used to create the project on her blog.

And, finally, the last question and resonse of the interview, although now one can read it on the Ong Wiki:

Q6. How are Professor Ong's theories about culture, technology and humanity significant to contemporary society?

I think this goes back to what I was saying about Ong writing a deeply personal history of humanity in general and of Western culture specifically. A few years ago, we in North America (and I'm assuming the developed world as a whole) started seeing reports of how computers, and especially the internet, served as tools which kept us isolated from family and friends. What I found most ironic in these reports was that they always compared the isolating role of computers to the social role of television. Even when we watch television alone, it turns out, we talk about watching television when we get together with others. The irony here is that it wasn't even twenty years ago when we heard reports of how television isolated us from our friends and neighbors. Before television, we used to spend our evenings out on our porches and in our yards and down at a local pub. Instead of sitting inside our houses watching television, we were outside interacting with our friends and neighbors. It was when I began reading accounts of these reports in the popular press that I realized that we, as a culture, had interiorized television.

What Ong has helped us to do, what his observations about culture, technology and humanity have done, is give us a framework to think about how we interact with technologies. Not just technologies of the word but all technologies, and in a larger sense, all knowledge, which exists because of and is passed on through technology. Ong liked to say that there is nothing more natural to humanity than the artificial. While we now know that humans aren't the only tool using species on this planet, and while know that we aren't even the only users of language (which is, really, just a tool), our history, our culture, and our consciousness are too deeply interwoven with technology to separate us from it. In this sense, what Ong has to say that is significant to contemporary society, and will always be significant to each and every future contemporary society, is this understanding of technology.

I use the word observations above rather than the word theories both in deference to Fr. Ong, who disliked the being described as a theorist and one who produced theories, and more importantly to stress what I said earlier about his belief that he was describing God's creation. As I said earlier, new knowledge didn't bother him because he regarded the gaining of knowledge as an ongoing process of discovery that continually builds upon prior knowledge. This is an important distinction. Theorists have theories which they often feel compelled to defend against new theories because a theory is something the theorist creates. Describing what one observes, on the other hand, is always an ongoing process of information accumulation that is inherently subject to revision. Theorizing assumes, or at least pretends, that we know all there is to know, which is a real problem for Ong when you recall that he believed God reveals knowledge to us through time.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Question five from the interview:

Q5. Walter Ong is most recognized for his book Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. What is the essence of this text that really engages people?

I can really only speak for myself here, or maybe I'm just better off speaking for myself and my relationship to this book so I will. The book is so clear, I think. Or it seems so, but more on that in a minute. It's scope, while ambitious, just makes sense. Being in the middle of writing my dissertation, I've been thinking a lot lately about scholarly books and their arguments, in large part because dissertations are supposed to be sustained arguments, and my particular project comes at a topic from a number of different angles. There's an argument in there which I can see clearly, but I've been living with this idea for years now, and I need to make it clear for others. All the while I read books which are about a topic but don't necessarily have what I'd call a central argument. I read a book and when I'm done I often have a good deal more knowledge about that topic, but I don't always leave the book with a sense that an argument has been made. With Orality and Literacy, however, the argument was always clear to me even if I wouldn't have called it an argument back when I first read the book. So, I think the clarity Ong achieves with this book despite its huge scope that is part of its appeal.

I also think Orality and Literacy engages us so deeply because it is about deeply personal matters. It's hard for us, and especially those of use who are interested in media studies, to separate our sense of self and our identity from language, from the word. I see this all the time when I teach composition to first-year students. It's often quite difficult to separate ourselves from those words which we've written, and in a very real sense we are ourselves nothing but words. Human (self-)awareness is rooted in thought and human thought is word-thought. Sure we can think in and with images, but we use words to understand these images. A mental image of my wife can make me happy when I'm traveling and miss her, but to explain why that image does so, even to myself let alone someone else, requires language. It requires words.

As a history of the technologizing of the word, Orality and Literacy is human history, and a deeply personal history at that. One of the thrusts of the book, for me at least, is about how we interiorize (or not) technologies of the word and the ramifications of that interiorization. To interiorize a technology is to make it so much a part of our every day experience, so much a part of who we are, so much a part of our consciousness, that we forget that it is a technology. Thought of in this light, it's hard not to find Orality and Literacy engaging.

I just want to say a few more things about Orality and Literacy. The book is too often misread. And I say this as someone who misread it for years. Since it was Fr. Ong's last book, and because it is a synthesis and because it is so clear, it's often read as a final statement, a distillation of Ong's scholarship. My first point here is that it was written as an objective summary of the field, which means Ong doesn't have to agree with or believe everything he included in the book (see the General Editor's Preface), a point many of Ong's critics fail to understand.

More importantly, however, is that Orality and Literacy wasn't written to take the place of all the other books and articles Fr. Ong wrote, but to serve as an introduction to them. It seems so clear and easy to understand, but what we're seeing is nothing more than the brilliance of an iceberg reflecting sunlight. What we see on the surface is so engaging that we often forget to think about what's below the surface. And that's the danger of Orality and Literacy. It's too easy to know it without really knowing it. Here's an example.

Being quite familiar with Old English poetry, which is strongly rooted in oral tradition, I readily understood what Ong calls the psychodynamics of orality. They described what I had already observed and gave me the language to talk about it. Years later, however, when I'd read much more deeply in both Ong's work and the other works which he cites, I came to understand the psychodynamics of orality on a much deeper level. To continue the analogy above, I finally looked below the surface and saw that there's much more iceberg below the surface than above it. Another way of thinking about this is that through Newton we knew gravity well enough to make planes fly, but we didn't know gravity nearly as well as we do now thanks to Einstein. To know Ong only through Orality and Literacy, and maybe a handful of his more famous articles, is to know Ong like Newton knew gravity. It's a working knowledge, but it's not the whole picture.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

It seems a Montana State University course on oral traditions required students to keep online journals:

Oral Traditions
The Oral Tradition
Oral Traditions
Memories of a Myth-Teller
Responses to Thoughts
Oral Traditions
Oral Traditions
Oral Tradition
Oral Traditions
The Power of Orality
Oral Traditions E-Journal
Story Time
Guy With the Cowboy Hat
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations...
E-Traditions of Orality
Oral Traditions Engl 377
Kelly Stoll's Journal
Oral Traditions
Oral Traditions
MSU English 337
Oral Traditions
opai's English 337 journal
Original Drivel
Oral Literatures Journal
Oral Traditions
A Journey into the Traditions of Orality
Assigned Journal
Oral Traditions
English 337
Oral Traditions Journal

With all this required course work online I'd expect to find an online syllabus as well. If there is, however, I can't seem to find it.

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Question four of the interview:

Q4. Apart from the Walter Ong Project, a site hosted by Saint Louis University, there does not seem to be much information about Ong available on the Internet, as compared to many other media thinkers. Why do you think this is so?

This is a hard question and one I'm not sure I can really answer. What ever I'm going to say is going to be speculation on my part, and maybe even wild speculation at that. But here goes. In part it may be because Fr. Ong never developed the cult of personality many other media thinkers have. Or it might be better to say that a cult of personality never developed around Fr. Ong. Or maybe it's even better to say that the cult of personality that developed around Ong was of a different kind, rooted more in personal presence and the dialogism of personal interaction. Whether or not that answer reflects reality, it's very fitting, very Ongian. Presence and dialogue are key Ongian terms.

What I mean, I think -- I've never really thought about it even though I've noticed it -- is that Ong doesn't work overly well as a media figure because media figurization (if that's a word) requires mediation and Ong works on a personal level even if you've never met him personally (he did have an infectious personality, which drew its strength, at least in part in the personal -- he genuinely cared about people). One of the consequences of this would be that Fr. Ong was never popularized and is therefore not as well known as many other media thinkers. Consequently, those who know of Fr. Ong's work are more likely to spend their time using it in scholarship rather than making Web sites about him. Which isn't to say that we shouldn't have much more information about Ong on the Web. We should. He needs to be better known than he is outside the academy and outside of American Catholic circles. One of my hopes for the Ong Collection is that there will be much digitization of it. That won't happen for some time, however, as we still haven't even looked at everything in the collection yet, and I probably won't have much of a role in it as I'm supposed to graduate and get a job as a professor at some other university.

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