Thinking Out Loud

April 9, 2016

Podcasts and the Migration from Literacy to Orality

Filed under: children, Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 am

Keyboard from steampunkworship dot com

There was a pastor whose blog I enjoyed reading about ten years ago. About five years ago, I think his keyboard stopped working. The blog still exists, but only to post video clips from his sermons. Other bloggers are using their blog solely to post their weekly podcast.

Inherent in podcasting is the right to ramble. Listeners get the nuance that’s missing in a traditional blog post (and this is one of the great liabilities of email) but they have to take the time to wade through the host(s) stream-of-consciousness narration. There’s no concision, a quality that decades ago Noam Chomsky had predicted would be, moving forward, a key asset in communications. A great concept that’s probably a seven or eight paragraph blog post instead becomes a 53 minute podcast.  Andy Warhol’s comment that “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes;” might be modified to, “In the 21st century, everyone will have their own talk show or be the host of their own radio station.” 

Nobody writes, ergo nobody reads.

Our discretionary time is spent on our screens: The one we carry in our pocket; the tablet, laptop or PC; and the 42-inch one in the living room. Our discretionary income goes to the various service providers who make these devices possible. 

Books? The problem isn’t eBooks, the problem is that nobody is reading. Especially men. The time has been used up on screens. The money has been spent on screens.

Add to this the damage being done to the written word due to:

  • texting
  • spell check
  • predictive text
  • visual media: Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, etc.
  • diminished attention spans
  • screen fatigue
  • reduced educational standards

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but if that’s true, a picture also replaces a thousand world.

Facebook, 2006: We just picked up a great deal on a used car. 5-years old. 4-door sedan. Only 40,000 miles. The body is in great shape, and we love the aquamarine color. Powerful 6-cyl engine. And we literally got it for a song.

Facebook, 2016: Look what we got! [posts picture]

English is eroding, and I suspect other languages in technology-infused countries in western Europe, Asia and South America aren’t faring much better.

Dads: When is the last time your kids saw you sitting in a chair reading a book?

I want to develop several aspects of this theme in some different ways over the next few days, we’ll consider this a brief introduction. Feel free to leave comments here or via email if you want to weigh in on this one.



  1. Very interesting perspective. Thanks for posting. Writing takes a lot more discipline and work then speaking and I do both.

    Comment by Stephen C. Weber — April 9, 2016 @ 2:37 pm

  2. I don’t disagree with your thesis per se, but I personally find that I process information much better orally than by reading. I love podcasts and I have many that I listen to regularly, and consistent themes work their way into my conscious and subconscious thought. Conversely, I’m a slow reader, and I don’t like reading as a form of relaxation — I find that I can’t read very long before I become tired and can’t concentrate.
    So I appreciate the fact that in this age we have the opportunity to consume thoughts and ideas orally.

    Interestingly, your title notes a migration from literacy to orality, but of course the world already experienced the reverse. One could argue that it was not very long ago that we truly moved from an oral to a written culture, globally anyway.

    There is much value in maintaining the discipline of reading and writing text, but it would be interesting to explore the benefits and drawbacks of different forms of media. We are in an age where there are few restrictions on how we communicate messages, and all these forms (text, image, video, audio) have prime value for certain situations. What is equally interesting to me is assessing the impact of the communication form with other aesthetic factors, like presence (live versus recording), community (alone versus with others), scope (large venue/screen versus small venue/screen), etc.

    Comment by Mike — April 12, 2016 @ 11:47 am

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