Last modified on 14 July 2006, at 23:28

Communication Theory/Orality and Literacy

This paper serves as an analysis of the contribution of Walter J. Ong, S. J. It serves as an overview of his work as it relates to the discipline of Communication. The chapter draws heavily from the work of Soukup (2004) and Farrell (2000) as their contribution to the scholar is impressive and thorough. Specifically, the chapter draws from the framework of contribution from Soukup’s (2004) article, which identifies Ong’s contribution in five specific ways throughout a 60 year academic career. In addition to Ong’s contribution to the discipline, the paper also serves to examine the influence wielded by Ong over his career on other scholars. It also serves to examine the influence peers on Ong’s career.

An Historical Review of OngEdit

The discipline of Communication is filled with scholars who have made a significant contribution to advancing the field. Walter J. Ong, S. J. would certainly have to be mentioned as being one in such a category of scholars. In order to develop an appreciation for him as a scholar it is important to know where he came from. There are few who have such a unique background. He was a scholar who not only pursued the academic end of education, but also pursued a formal spiritual education. His background is impressive to read academically: B. A. in Classics (Rockhurst College, 1933); B. A. in Philosophy (St. Louis University, 1941); Theology degree (St. Louis University, 1948); M. A. in English (St. Louis University, 1941); Ph. D. in English (Harvard, 1954) (Soukup, 2004). The resume of degrees is worth mentioning because it provides a backdrop of the diversity of formal education that Ong had achieved throughout his lifetime. According to Wikipedia, Reverend Ong was, “a world-class thinker known today as an honorary guru among technophiles, was a Jesuit priest, professor of English literature, cultural and religions historian, linguist, and philosopher” (Retrieved September 30, 2005, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Ong). White (as cited in Farrell, 2000) further identified that Ong’s contribution to scholarship touched on five specific areas: literary studies, communication, theology and religious studies, psychology, intellectual history, and linguistics. The broad spectrum of knowledge produced by such a unique individual is what further promotes conversation about his influence and his legacy over time.

Framing the ChapterEdit

Ong’s many contributions to the discipline over his 60-year career cannot be easily condensed into a brief chapter. Soukup (2004) identified five specific parameters of his contribution that this chapter will adopt for framing purposes: historical studies of rhetoric; visual images and habits of thought; the word; stages of communication media; and finally, digital media and hermeneutics. These contributions tie into the study of communication. In addition to the work of Soukup, the chapter will also draw from the insight of Farrell (2000). Both scholars provide excellent commentary on Ong and his influence on communication and related disciplines. Interwoven within the chapter will be the mention of other scholars who were seen to be influences, peers, and understudies of Ong. The reality of Ong’s legacy is a strong testament to a solid career in scholarship.

Ong and His Historical Studies of RhetoricEdit

In an interview with Soukup (personal communication, September 16, 2005) it is clear that the framed parameters of Ong’s contribution to the discipline are connected to the development of his academic career. It is important to note at this point that mapping Ong’s career academically through an historic paradigm would serve the reader best. One can get a better feel for the development of his thought processes over time as well as an understanding of those who influenced (or were influenced by him) along the way. A starting point would bring us to Ong’s examination of rhetoric through historical frames. Ong’s Harvard dissertation focused on scholar Peter Ramus (1515-1572), a 16th century Parisian professor and educational reformer (Soukup, 2004). While at Harvard, Ong focused on Ramus’ interest in the development of the printing press and his focus on the question of if we should be re-thinking the way in which rhetoric was taught. Soukup summarized Ong's focus on Ramus and his studies of rhetoric:

The study of Ramus plays a central role in Ong’s thinking about communication, one that extends far beyond the history of rhetoric. From classical times through the Renaissance, rhetoric defined not only how people spoke, but how people analyzed and solved problems. In many ways, because rhetoric more or less defined education, it defined, through education, the dominant ways of thinking. Several changes occurred shortly before or during Ramus’s lifetime. Ong noticed two key changes in western thought, manifest in Ramus’s writing: a shift away from rhetoric (with its emphasis on probable knowledge) to logic (with its emphasis on proofs and truth); a shift from hearing spoken argumentation to see a written demonstration. And Ong noticed how printing changed the school environment. It was here that Ong first made the connection between communication form (hearing, seeing), communication media, and thought processes. (2004, p. 4)

Ramus was a part of something that Ong found interesting. Western thought was making a transition away from rhetoric that could be seen in terms of logical probability in discussion, to logic that was grounded more in seeking concrete truth and proof for reasoning. A good resource concerning the history of rhetoric and Western thinking comes from the work of the editors Golden, Berquist, Coleman & Sproule (2004). The text maps the development of rhetoric within a western context of thinking, providing a great overview of the history of rhetoric in the west. Further, the idea of written demonstration as opposed to spoken argumentation was in some ways a shift of preference. A review of Ramist Rhetoric from Ong (1958a) demonstrated a sort of mapped explanation of the transition of rhetoric (specifically, Ramist Rhetoric is Chapter Twelve). Soukup (2004) mentioned it extensively. The transitional development of rhetoric in comparison to logic was anything but a source of absolute clarity. Farrell (2000) further noted that such an analysis from Ong was focused on the contrast of expression that dealt with both sound and sight. It would be foolish to consider the transition smooth and marked. The shift in cultural learning is one that mapped over time. It was more a process than a marked chasm or divide. Ong (1971a) stated that, “there is no total theoretical statement of the nature of either rhetoric or logic, much less their interrelation. Conceivably such a statement might finally be achieved at the end of history, when rhetoric and logic would be outmoded” (p. 7). Ong’s comment seemed more in line with the idea that hindsight and retrospect will have the final say when either of the approaches to knowledge and learning would seem obsolete.

Historically, Ramus derived a good deal of thought strongly relative to the transitional shift from that of logic to proof. In some respects, Ong saw Ramus as a product of the times in which he lived. Soukup (2004) commented:

Ramus was above all a teacher and that shaped his approach to developing both his dialectic and his rhetoric in an age when printing changed the school environment. He lived at a time when science also changed the learning environment. (p.6)

Ong (1958a, 1958b) noted the transition of Ramus away from knowledge through the traditional form of instructional teaching to that of objects and diagrams. The thought of knowledge derived through diagrams and objects is the direction that Ramus seemed headed toward. Inclusive within this shift is the awareness of how we arrive at knowledge. The pedagogical shift here is important. In the transition, knowledge can be derived from the visual perspective as well as that of the oral perspective. Seeing diagrams, objects, and symbols in print to arrive at knowledge is what ultimately what Ong focused in on. Much of this can be attributed to the development an invention that rocked society in its ability to learn, distribute, and store knowledge in Ramus’s lifetime—the printing press.

Printing was changing how people learned, and it was happening in Ramus’s lifetime. In terms of why Ong focused in on this particular aspect, something from his cultural/spiritual background began to emerge. Ong had a background in biblical studies (he was a Roman Catholic priest). He was interested with the difference in learning attributed to Hebrew culture and to Greek and Latin culture (P. Soukup, personal communication, September 16, 2005). Soukup commented on the idea that Hebrew culture was much more focused on sound and the spoken word. He further mentioned that the Greek and Latin culture of learning was more visual, focused on image. Ong focused in on how Ramus analyzed the transition away from oral as a primary form of comprehension to literate and the incorporation of visual images. Ramus became entrenched with the aspect of printing and was widely seen as a publishing and pedagogical guru (Soukup, 2004). This focus of transformation of knowledge became a continued theme that he would work closely with and develop further throughout his career. A brief quote from Ong (1968) made this apparent:

We have reached a period today when the accumulation of knowledge has made possible insights of new clarity and depth into the history of knowledge itself. Growth of knowledge soon produces growth in knowledge about knowledge, its constitution, and its history, for knowledge is of itself reflective. Given time, it will try to explain not only the world but itself more and more. (p. 8)

Ong's assessment of Ramus is exhaustive. It is strongly encouraged that if the reader finds a greater interest in this particular area of commentary, they should seek out Soukup’s (2004) article as well as a copy of Ong’s dissertation and additional commentary. His contribution to the examination of rhetoric is amazing. Ong was impressive in his analysis of Ramus and the contribution he made to the development of knowledge, primarily through a transition from orality to literacy via the significant development of the printing press. So powerful and striking was Ong’s analysis of Ramus that McLuhan (1962) cited him extensively in his influential book, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. McLuhan is a central figure in the discipline, and was instrumental in guiding Ong in the move to Harvard where he pursued his Ph.D. in English. Refer to the work McLuhan (1962, 1964) and Neil (1993) regarding McLuhan, as he is widely instrumental in advancing the field.

The influence of Ong’s thoughts relative to the history of rhetoric can be felt even today. The work of Poster (2000), Moss (2004), Youngkin (1995), Kaufer & Butler (1996) serve as examples of many scholars who have followed and contributed further to Ong’s assessment of rhetoric. There is much more that could be said regarding this section of Ong’s influence and scholarship. However, there is more that must be said in different areas regarding Ong’s influence in 60 years of work.

Visual Images and Habits of ThoughtEdit

Ong went on from his dissertation to leave a rather large impression on the discipline. As touched upon briefly in the commentary of his analysis of Ramus, Ong began to focus on the shift from oral to visual in learning. As Soukup (2004) notes, rhetoric shaped the thought process of society through its use in education. As a pedagogical tool, it helped people create and transmit knowledge. Over time however, the process of learning and obtaining knowledge and information began to look different. This section will focus on the transformation of learning and knowledge throughout time.

Over time, the way we learn has changed. Ong (1962a) was very interested in this, particularly when it came to analyzing a transformation of knowledge from that of spoken word to that of text:

In many ways, the greatest shift in the way of conceiving knowledge between the ancient and the modern world takes place in the movement from a pole where knowledge is conceived of in terms of discourse and hearing and persons to one where it is conceived of in terms of observation and sight and objects. This shift dominates all others in Western intellectual history, and as compared to it, the supposed shift from a deductive to an inductive method pales into insignificance. For, in terms of this shift, the coming into prominence of deduction, which must be thought of in terms of visual, not auditory, analogies—the ‘drawing’ of conclusions, and so on, not the ‘hearing’ of a master—is already a shift toward the visual and a preparatory step for induction, from which deduction was never entirely separated anyhow. Stress on induction follows the stress on deduction as manifesting a still further visualization in the approach to knowledge, with tactics based on ‘observation,’ and approach preferably through sight. (pp. 70-71)

Learning in the Western tradition shifted from being centered on discourse to observation and sight, bringing rhetoric and logic together. Rhetorical pedogogy relied on discourse and apprenticeship with a master teacher. The shift to observational approaches allowed for collective growth of knowledge, rather than reliance on a group of earlier "masters." As the process of learning develops, the ability for those to not simply learn from a master, but to learn from observation and drawing conclusions promotes logic rather than discourse. Likewise, there evolves a shift in focus from the guiding teacher to the autonomous learner. This analysis was only one of a number of reformist critiques of education; such reforms are common throughout history. As Ong (1962b) pointed out:

Everybody today, it seems, wants to reform education. It would be interesting if this ambition were a mark of our times. But it is not, for an ambition to reform education is found in most of the ages known to civilization. (p. 149)

When Ong analyzed Ramus in terms of the transition of knowledge from that of rhetoric to logic, there is a sense of understanding that knowledge framed in rhetoric must cause the learning culture to remember words. In other words, when cultures are primarily learning through words, the importance of holding to words is imperative. Havelock (1963), a contemporary of Ong, commented on repetition as of extreme importance in oral culture. Ong would agree with Havelock’s assessment (Soukup, 2004). When cultures emphasize rhetoric as the primary form of learning, it is of absolute importance that the words of importance be seized upon and remembered, for that is where learning takes place. An analysis of where Ong draws this transition of learning seems most prominent in the Renaissance (That this is a commentary on Western learning. The writer acknowledges a variety of other types of learning, but Ong’s commentary on the Renaissance focuses on Western learning). The main transition of learning that takes place here is one from the emphasis of recall to the ability to refer to text (Soukup, 2004). The emphasis on text as opposed to oral recall could serve to expand the base of knowledge in an exponential way. The process of communicating and retaining information was not about what one might be able to store within the individual mind, but the idea of referring to text as a source of information and knowledge truly served to change a culture making such a transition. This was the case of the Renaissance. Learning took on new forms of visual recognition and recall which Ong (1977a) elaborated on further and termed as being a sort of visual retrieval.

As the ability to obtain knowledge and to learn changed in such a way as mentioned above the base rate at which knowledge was obtained changed. The approach to obtaining information was different. No longer did pressure reside within individual recall, but the ability to recall text became more of a focus. In essence, the Renaissance made a significant change in the approach to learning and the dissemination of knowledge. In a rather interesting sort of commentary, Ong (1977b) wrote about how our expression of words has changed to indicate that we are more of a visual culture. Soukup (2004) stated:

Ong summarizes the effects of visualism on thinking, going so far as to show its history in the vocabularies we use. As with rhetoric, the way we talk reveals, in some ways the way we think. His list of visual words ‘used in thinking of intellect and its work’ includes ‘insight, intuition, theory, idea, evidence, species, speculation, suspicion, clear, make out, observe, represent, show, explicate, analyze, discern, distinct, form, outline, plan, field of knowledge, object’ and many others. (p. 8)

The use of such words reflects the visual and logical frame of learning in Western society. The words are marked with visual representation of obtaining knowledge. They reflect a sort of mapping out that takes place in providing a framework of learning and comprehension. Realizing the thought process that goes into mapping this sort of differentiation in learning and fostering knowledge causes one to appreciate the mind that Ong possessed in coming to such a conclusion.

Faigley (1998) mentioned Ong and the works of others mapped to the development of visual thought and the dichotomy of oral versus visual. Within the article, Faigley cited the works of other scholars linked to Ong and this particular subject matter worth noting. The work of Goody (1977), Goody & Watt (1963), Innis (1951), and Havelock (1982) are worth noting. When it comes to idea of the communication and learning (particularly the development of the visual), Goody, Innis, and Havelock come up as well and could be seen as peers working in and around the same time as one another in these particular areas. The work attributed to the scholars above syncs well with the development of culture from oral (learning through sound) to literate (learning through sight and print), which is at the heart of Ong’s (1982) text.

The WordEdit

While much of the focus in the first couple of sections of this chapter focuses in on a sort of transformation from oral to visual, Ong maintained a steadfast appreciation for the importance of the word and what surrounds it. The sound associated with our use of words is still a focal point of scholarship. Ong was quite particular in focusing on words, their sound, and what they in fact seemed to reveal about the interior condition of the individual (Soukup, 2004). Ong (1962c) stated:

There is, indeed, no way for a cry to completely exteriorize itself. A mark made by our hand will remain when we are gone. But when the interior—even the physical, corporeal interior, as well as the spiritual interior of consciousness—from which a cry is emitted ceases to function as an interior, the cry itself has perished. To apprehend what a person has produced in space—a bit of writing, a picture—is not at all to be sure that he is alive. To hear his voice (provided it is not reproduced from a frozen spatial design on a phonograph disc or tape) is to be sure. (p. 28)

Soukup (2004) pointed out the significance of the interior as it related to Ong. Essentially, the interior refers to what is happening within the individual. A glimpse of the interior can be revealed to us as a society through the words and sounds coming up from out of the individual. It may not completely reflect the condition within the individual, but it serves to give us insight. Ong’s commentary of the word is occurred during a period of time when other scholars were touching on similar ideas. Lord (1960) and Havelock (1963) were mentioned in Farrell’s (2000) commentary of Ong, seeing him as a sort of cultural relativist. Lord (1960) visited the issue of performance relative to storytelling in an oral tradition. Havelock’s (1963) work dealt with issues very similar to Ong and the word, but more applied to the area of poetics. Heavily entrenched in the work is an emphasis on the oral, which relates to Ong’s commentary about the word. Soukup (2004) mentioned that Ong (1962a) produced striking commentary on the human voice as being one of an invasion into the atmosphere. The thought of the voice and word through this line of thinking is one that is rather self-revealing. Essentially, the voice coming from out of the interior of the individual reveals something of that person. It is through such revealing that individuals connect with one another. This is an important aspect that Ong would not have us miss. This commentary of interiority and sound of the word probes the issue of authenticity. How something comes out is telling of the feeling or mood associated with the word. When considering prior Ong commentary relative to Ramus and the development of learning from sound to visual, it is interesting to see that Ong went back to the perspective of language and sound and stressed the importance of investigating sound associated with the word. This is a good reminder of the idea that sound is still a relevant and important point of study. While stressing that such focus is not semantics or wordplay, Ong acknowledged that while one can draw out a lot from the process and experience of communication through investigating sound, voice, word, and interiority, the fact that there could be more going on than what he could conclude is something that he sensed (Soukup, 2004). This area of focus for Ong revealed his linguistic side of scholarship. Given discipline cross-over in communication, it still serves as a relevant piece of discussion and contribution.

Further advancing the concept of word and sound, Ong began to draw from a couple of scholars (some already mentioned above) who would prove to be peers. The work of Havelock (1963) and Lord (1960) was mentioned earlier, but it is also worth noting Ong’s draw from McLuhan (1962) and Parry (1928). Soukup (2004) identified the contribution of such scholars to Ong’s work. Havelock (1963) reinforced Ong’s assessment of the development of learning in his analysis of Ramus. The idea that the transition of learning went from that of oral to written is something that Havelock noticed. From that, he commented on how that essentially changed the pattern of thought process. This idea ties back into Ong’s (1958a) assessment of the transitional development of rhetoric to logic. While the shift seemed to be a gradual one without an absolute mark of distinction, it still impacted the process of thought. Parry (1928) and Lord (1960) studied the process of thought and recall in poetics, the way in which Ong studied rhetoric (Soukup, 2004). Finally, as a testament to Ong earning the respect of fellow scholars, McLuhan (1964) drew heavily from Ong’s (1958a) work on Ramus. Mentioned briefly earlier in the chapter, McLuhan is widely seen as an influential scholar in the discipline of Communication. McLuhan, in some respects, was an influential factor in pushing Ong forward in his research endeavors. In tracing the scholarship of Ong, his input on the work of McLuhan (Ong, 1952) was substantial. McLuhan saw a good deal of potential in the work of Ong. He supervised Ong’s thesis and at the beginning of Ong’s (1958b) close follow-up to his dissertation, he pays tribute to McLuhan by writing, “For Herbert Marshall McLuhan who started all this” (dedication). While they were similar in age, McLuhan was seen as an influential factor in encouraging Ong in the direction that he did (P. Soukup, personal communication, September 16, 2005).

Ong continued further in his commentary on the word. As he probed the word and investigated further, Soukup (2004) pointed out that he introduced the concept of “the sensorium.” Essentially, this dealt with using human senses and experience to communicate. This was introduced by Ong (1967a) in what was known as his Terry Lectures at Yale University. The lectures (oral) were bound and put into print. In some respects, that statement is a humorous sort of irony. The focus of Ong (1967b) was to set apart the oral when considering human senses and communication. Ong further exercised a commentary about cultural awareness. He acknowledged the idea that when it comes to expression, specifically with the oral, it looks different within other cultures:

Cultures vary greatly in their exploitation of the various senses and in the way in which they relate to their conceptual apparatus to the various senses. It has been a commonplace that the ancient Hebrews and the ancient Greeks differed in the value they set on the auditory. The Hebrews tended to think of understanding as a kind of hearing, whereas the Greeks thought of it more as a kind of seeing, although far less exclusively as seeing than post-Cartesian Western man generally has tended to do. (pp. 3-4)

While this was the case for Ong in assessing Western culture, he clearly pointed out that not all cultures adhere to an oral standard of such importance.

Continuing with the word, there are two other aspects to touch on relative to Ong—the use of words and stages of communication consciousness. Ong’s focus on the use of words for debate and argumentation are worth noting. In some respects, an investigation of Ong and pedagogy reveals the setup of the education system with regard to debate and argumentation as being structured more for men than for women. Such an analysis makes sense when one considers the history of the system of Western education. As touched upon in Soukup (2004), Ong’s (1967a) work on the word revealed that people within oral cultures use words as a potential alternative to calling up arms against one another. In essence, words insert themselves into a sort of combat. One could draw from this the study of argumentation and debate. In many respects, this could be seen as and advantage to developing as an oral culture. For more commentary relative to this particular area, see Soukup (2004).

Communication and consciousness is the last area to touch upon in dealing with Ong and the word. In many respects, this is where one of Ong’s most famous works, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (1982) is considered. Ong noted the development of consciousness through stages within culture. Inclusive within this consciousness is the idea of knowledge and learning. How cultures develop in the area of consciousness is what Ong sought to provide commentary on in the text. Ultimately, Ong sees communication gradually developing from an oral stage into a stage of print. In his thought on Western society, Ong noted the development of a third stage of communication consciousness known as electronic communication (Soukup, 2004). Ong’s (1982) book is certainly popular, but does not provide an accurate picture of the vast amount of work covered over his career. Farrell (2000) noted that it does not serve to provide a general overview of the scholar. There is much more to his line of thought than simply this one text. While there are many to applaud the commentary of Ong in this particular text, there are also those who see it as lacking. Montenyohl (1995) took Ong to task, citing a sort of generalization about orality that was not comfortable to him as a scholar. Farrell (2000) defended Ong from Montenyohl’s criticism, citing that he was not sure that Montenyohl had done enough background research on Ong to provide just criticism of his work. With such a successful text as Ong’s (1982) was, it is hard for many not to simply read the text and see it as a fair representation of all of Ong’s work. To back Farrell, simply reading Ong (1982) does an injustice to the vast amount of work that he had contributed over a long career. While it is an excellent book and provides substantial commentary for discussion, Ong did much more as a scholar years before penning that text in the later part of his academic career.

An examination of the word relative to Ong deserves even further investigation. However, the goal of the chapter is to consider the impact of a particular scholar in communication, in terms of both scholarship and in influencing scholars. If the interest in Ong is peaked at this point, it is strongly encouraged that the reader investigates the work of Farrell (2000), Soukup (2004) for commentary.

Stages of Communication Media, Consciousness, Digital Media and HermeneuticsEdit

While mentioning the development of communication in stages in the prior section, there is further commentary that Ong produced. He became interested in the aspect of technology and its application to the idea of its particular stage in communication. There had been the development in Western culture from oral to literate, but what came next? Ong (1971, 1982) directed his focus to the concept of secondary orality. Soukup (2004) and Farrell (2000) touched upon this. The focus was directed toward mediums of communication in literate cultures like that of radio, television, and telephones in particular. Basically, one begins to examine the mediums of communication that are oral, but set within a literate culture. New forms of communication build on old forms. What is the effect? Ong was interested in such a question.

There are many scholars who have followed Ong in asking this question, specifically as it relates to secondary orality. Gronbeck (1991) examined the aspect of consciousness within a culture. He also examined rhetoric gets applied over different mediums, specifically focused on the idea of a one-to-many type of communication. Farrell (1991) examined the issue of secondary orality and consciousness. Silverstone (1991) developed a slightly different article relative to media studies in examining television, rhetoric, and the unconscious as it related to secondary oraltiy. Media Studies is an area of study that has taken a good look at Ong and secondary orality. In keeping with Media Studies, Sreberny-Mohammadi (1991) provided a unique perspective when examining the integration of media into Iran. Not only was the issue of media integration focused on, consciousness was part of the examination as well.

Consciousness is an area of focus as well, that ties into Ong. A number of scholars study consciousness and have, in some ways, been influenced by Ong. Swearingen (1991) looked at Ong’s contribution to Feminist Studies. Payne (1991) examined the consciousness of media and rhetoric while examining characterology. Finally, El Saffar (1991) examined the issue of consciousness as it related to language and identity.

The stages at which cultures developed were of particular interest to Ong. Regardless of the transition from one stage to another, Ong keyed in on questions of transformation, medium incorporation (specifically as it related to secondary orality), and consciousness.

As we conclude the areas of influence attributed to Ong, we close with one quite relative to the advent and exponential growth of new technology. Digital or computer-based communication was an area that caught Ong’s eye, particularly at the latter stages of his academic career. Soukup (2004) commented:

Modern, electronic communications help us in yet another way to understand what is going on with texts. The sense of immediacy of electronics gives readers a sense of proximity to events reported. That too, occurs with texts. With a text that works well, readers enter into the text, ‘into the immediacy of the writer’s experience’ (p.499). But electronic communication also reveals that this immediacy is highly mediated and thus somewhat artificial. (pp. 18-19)

Soukup (2004) further noted that understanding code and speed of transmission helps us to understand how communication works in a digital realm. Many shy away from understanding transmission, which, ironically touches on the issue of consciousness (or lack of). Welch (1999) wrote about electronic rhetoric and new literacy as it specifically to computers and their implementation into society and looked at understanding their impact.

Most important within this final section is the issue of interpretation and comprehension. As we continue to emerge in an age of digital transmission of information, the word hermeneutics comes up continuously within Ong’s work. We have technologies growing at rather quick rates that transmit data digitally. While we understand much of what we see on the front end of a technology, the ability to understand how we arrive at transmitting such information is of importance for Ong. It is a challenge, but the process of encoding and decoding information is something to be interpreted and understood. Capurro (2000) focused on the subject of hermeneutics and the process of storage and retrieval of information. While understanding that a technological structure emerges in the subject of digital communication, Ong also noted that there is still a need to deal with social structure as well (Soukup, 2004). Essentially, understand the technology and understand social structure. The requirement to do so is interpretation. Soukup (2004) noted that the process of interpretation summarized much of Ong’s thoughts about communication. This has to do with everything, particularly in dealing with orality, literacy, secondary orality, and digital communication.

ConclusionEdit

The impact of Walter Ong is significant. Not only did he produce excellent scholarship in the areas mentioned above, he made a significant impact on scholars. From his early research of the history of rhetoric to his analysis of digital hermeneutics, his thoughts provoked further scholarship from those mentioned above. It is worth noting that many others have been influenced by the contribution of Ong. For the purpose of this chapter, the selection of scholars touched by his scholarship had to be limited. Refer to the references list below for further inquiry into the above concepts. With all that had been accomplished in his career, it is clear that Ong was clearly an influential scholar in the twentieth century. Further research continues in many areas relative to the trail paved by scholars like Ong.

ReferencesEdit

Capurro, R. (2000). Hermeneutics and the phenomenon of information. Research in Philosophy and Technology, 19, 79-85.

El Saffar, R. (1991). The body’s place: Language, identity, consciousness. In B. E. Gronbeck, T. J. Farrell, & P. A. Soukup (Eds.), Media, consciousness, and culture: Explorations of Walter Ong's thought (pp. 182-193). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Faigley, L. (1998). Visual rhetoric: Literacy by design. Keynote speech presented at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing 1998 conference, Technology and literacy in a wired academy, Minneapolis, MN.

Farrell, T. J. (1991). Secondary orality and consciousness today. In B. E. Gronbeck, T. J. Farrell, & P. A. Soukup (Eds.), Media, consciousness, and culture: Explorations of Walter Ong's thought (pp. 194-209). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Farrell, T. J. (2000). Walter Ong's contributions to cultural studies: The phenomenology of the word and I-thou communication. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Golden, J. L., Berquist, G. F., Coleman, W. E., & Sproule, J. M. (Eds.). (2004). The rhetoric of western thought: From the Mediterranean world to the global setting (8th ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Goody, J. (1977). The domestication of the savage mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goody, J., & Watt, I. P. (1963). The consequences of literacy. Comparitive Studies in Society and History, 5, 304-345.

Gronbeck, B. E. (1991). The rhetorical studies tradition and Walter J. Ong: Oral-literacy theories of mediation, culture, and consciousness. In B. E. Gronbeck, T. J. Farrell, & P. A. Soukup (Eds.), Media, consciousness, and culture: Explorations of Walter Ong’s thought (pp. 5-24). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Havelock, E. A. (1963). Preface to Plato. Cambridge, MA: Bellknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Havelock, E. A. (1982). The Literate Revolution in Greece and its cultural consequences. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Innis, H. A. (1951). The bias of communication. Toronto: The University of Toronto Press.

Kaufer, D. S., & Butler, B. S. (1996). Rhetoric and the arts of design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Lord, A. B. (1960). The singer of tales. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

McLuhan, M. (1962). The Gutenberg galaxy: The making of typographic man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: McGraw Hill.

Montenyohl, E. L. (1995). Oralities (and literacies): Comments on the relationship of contemporary folklorists and literary studies. In C. L. Preston (Ed.), Folklore, literature, and cultural studies: Collected essays (pp. 240-256). New York: Garland Publishing.

Moss, J. D. (2004). Rhetoric, the measure of all things. MLN, 119, 556-565.

Neil, S. D. (1993). Clarifying McLuhan: An assessment of process and product. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Ong, W. J. (1952). The Mechanical Bride: Christen folklore of industrial man. Review article of The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. By Herbert Marshall McLuhan. Social Order 2 (Feb.), 79-85.

Ong, W. J. (1958a). Ramus, method, and the decay of dialogue: From the art of discourse to the art of reason. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ong, W. J. (1958b). Ramus and Talon inventory: A short-title inventory of the published works of Peter Ramus (1515-1572), and of Omer Talon (ca. 1510-1562) in their original and in their variously altered forms. With related material: 1. The Ramist controversies: A descriptive catalogue. 2. Agricola check list: A short-title inventory of some printed editions and printed compendia of Rudolph Agricola’s Dialectical inventory (De inventione dialectica). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ong, W. J. (1962a). Five: System, space, and intellect in renaissance symbolism. In W. J. Ong, The barbarian within: And other fugitive essays and studies (pp. 68-87). New York and London: The Macmillan Company.

Ong, W. J. (1962b). Eight: Educationists and the tradition of learning. In W. J. Ong, The barbarian within: And other fugitive essays and studies (pp. 149-163). New York and London: The Macmillan Company.

Ong, W. J. (1962c). Two: A dialectic of aural and objective correlatives. In W. J. Ong, The barbarian within: And other fugitive essays and studies (pp. 26-40). New York and London: The Macmillan Company.

Ong, W. J. (1967a). The presence of the word: Some prolegomena for cultural and religious history. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Ong, W. J. (1967b). The word and the sensorium. In W. J. Ong, The presence of the word: Some prolegomena for cultural and religious history. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Ong, W. J. (1968). Knowledge in time. In W. J. Ong, Knowledge and the future of man: An international symposium (pp. 3-38). New York, Chicago, and San Francisco: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc.

Ong, W. J. (1971). Rhetoric and the origins of consciousness. In W. J. Ong, Rhetoric, romance, and technology (pp. 1-22). Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Ong, W. J. (1977a). Typographic rhapsody: Ravisius Textor, Zwinger, and Shakespeare. In W. J. Ong, Interfaces of the word: Studies in the evolution of consciousness and culture (pp. 146-188). Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Ong, W. J. (1977b). "I see what you say": sense analogues for intellect. In W. J. Ong, Interfaces of the word: Studies in the evolution of consciousness and culture (pp. 121-144). Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London and New York: Methuen.

Parry, M. (1928). L’Ephithete traditionelle dans Homere. Paris: Societe Editrice Les Belles Lettres.

Payne, D. (1991). Characterology, media, and rhetoric. In B. E. Gronbeck, T. J. Farrell, & P. A. Soukup (Eds.), Media, consciousness, and culture: Explorations of Walter Ong’s thought (pp. 223-236). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Poster, C. (2001). Being, time, and definition: Toward a semiotics of figural rhetoric. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 33, 116-136.

Silverstone, R. (1991). Television, rhetoric, and the return of the unconscious in secondary oral culture. In B. E. Gronbeck, T. J. Farrell, & P. A. Soukup (Eds.), Media, consciousness, and culture: Explorations of Walter Ong's thought (pp. 147-159). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Soukup, P. A. (2004). Walter J. Ong, S. J.: A retrospective. Communication Research Trends, 23, 3-23.

Sreberny-Mohammadi, A. (1991) Media integration in the Third World: An Ongian look at Iran. In B. E. Gronbeck, T. J. Farrell, & P. A. Soukup (Eds.), Media, consciousness, and culture: Explorations of Walter Ong’s thought (pp. 133-146). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Swearingen, C. J. (1991). Discourse, difference, and gender: Walter J. Ong’s contributions to feminist language studies. In B. E. Gronbeck, T. J. Farrell, & P. A. Soukup (Eds.), Media, consciousness, and culture: Explorations of Walter Ong’s thought (pp. 210-222). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Walter J. Ong (2005, September 30). Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 30, 2005, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Ong.

Welch, K. E. (1999). Electric rhetoric: Classical rhetoric, oralism, and a new literacy. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Youngkin, B. R. (1995). The contribution of Walter J. Ong to the study of rhetoric: History and metaphor. Lewiston, NY: Mellen University Press.

More InformationEdit

Semiotics and Myth · Diffusion of Innovations

Semiotics and Myth · Communication Theory · Diffusion of Innovations

Introduction ·  This box: view  talk  edit 

Theorists and   Uncertainty Reduction · Propaganda and the Public · Uses and Gratifications · The Frankfurt School
Approaches :   Semiotics and Myth · Orality and Literacy · Diffusion of Innovations · Sociological Systems · Network Society