The Social/Rhetorical/Epistemic Situation of Audio-Visual Discussion
This post is in response to This comment, which essentially inquires as to the way in which elements of primary AND which elements of secondary orality play into:
- Orally-based web 2.0 technologies;
- Interpersonal relationships and the associated oral communication patterns;
- People in front of the radio or around an orator versus the experience of having those relationships in a virtual environment;
- Orality and epistemology; and
- Oral communicative patterns.
Additionally, the comment acknowledges the freedom podcasts [and related audio-visual discussions] grant us in terms of when/where (portability) and inquires as to how such technologies meet the innate need to set new knowledge into social context.
Traditionally (primary orality), it was common for small groups to gather around an orator. It was conducive to members of the small audience to request clarification, ask questions, and create more of a discourse. Granted, the settings in which such orations occurred were varying, and the social, spatial, and even class situations might have inhibited such open discussion between orator and audience. Also, I do question what sort of prompts (actual or perceived) caused individuals to break the 1:many setting and make it more of a discourse. In other words, I am curious about the point at which the interruption occurs and what prompts it.
In some ways, this situation of the live orator is similar to (secondary orality setting of) those gathering around the radio in the 50s or around the television after that, particularly in the communication that occurred lateral to the media presentation. For example, when an individual is speaking in front of an audience( this includes current classroom settings) or a group is gathered around the radio or television, it is common for at least a few comments to be made from one audience member to another directly or in some cases just stated allowed, addressed to all. Whether such comments are insightful, heckling, acknowledging/refuting, or off-topic, there is a certain level of human/interpersonal/oral communication occurring.
When one is reading a text, working online, or listening/watching a presentation on an iPod/MP3-player, there is no communication similar to the settings noted above. Granted, any of these three examples have ways that the experience can be shared with more than one individual at once (in which case, such commentary can and usually does occur), but such settings are the rarity; generally these examples are experienced on an individual level.
However, this idea of audio-visual discussions does assimilate in the virtual environment some of these communication patterns, such as the interpersonal communication between audience members and interaction with the orator, which occur in the live setting, including the situation of a group of people gathered around a radio or television recording. Specifically, there is a new social context, social situation, and rhetorical situation formed by having the audio-visual discussions.
For example, I can record an online video to which one individual responds in video form. I can then respond to the comment and/or a third individual can comment. This third individual could be merely making a comment to the second individual about my topic or about my self or presentation. That third individual might also be joining the larger conversation established by the response of the second individual (and arguably is joining such regardless of to whom the comment is directed).
Of course, similar situations can happen textually and frequently do in the form of chat rooms, blogs, wikis, and even the textual comments add to online videos. These textual comments are not so dissimilar to that of the visual discussions and in many ways can serve similar purposes. The main difference is that in the textual for, it is still the unattached, independent, asynchronous individual contributing to a conversation. To this situation, the audio-visual discussion adds the human factor; one can see and hear the appearance, gestures, setting or the speaker, as if looking through a window or across a table. This ties directly to the rhetorical canon of Delivery and experiencing fully the orator and the rhetorical situation, as opposed to the partial situations of textual, purely audio podcasting, and even the downloaded video podcast, since it is unidirectional (one cannot comment on it).
Additionally, the audio-visual discussion also has the characteristic of semi-synchronous communication, which adds to the similarity to live discussion. It is the visual, audible interaction that cannot occur when personally experiencing a text, podcast (downloaded and experienced one-sided), or Web search. This is all very Web 2.0; it is interactive and each user has a certain amount of control over his or her experience and input.
Thus, the audio-visual discussion creates a new epistemological situation formed of the way we build and gain knowledge through:
- Human interaction/discussion;
- Web searches and links;
- Internal reflective thought (planning responses);
- Ongoing/branching discussions with multiple individuals; and
- The archivable/recallable nature of online media.
This condition and rhetorical/social situation is the merging of the human orator (primary), the communication that can be experienced through an electronic medium (secondary), the common live discourse contexts we experience daily, the textual communications in which we engage on the Web, and an interactive Web 2.0 control. This condition affords us something not previously available. It is really something very different.
NOTE: While I acknowledge the argument, I am still not comfortable with the use of “tertiary orality” to refer to IM and chat situations, since they are not oral. However, I firmly support their communicative nature and, by extension, their role in helping to build this audio-visual discussion situation.