Inward and Outward

Walter Ong, from Orality and Literacy:

By removing words from the world of sound where they had first had their origin in active human interchange and relegating them definitively to visual surface, and by otherwise exploiting visual space for the management of knowledge, print encouraged human beings to think of their own interior conscious and unconscious resources as more and more thing-like, impersonal, and religiously neutral. Print encourage the mind to sense that its possessions were held in some sort of inert mental space. (pg. 129)

This interiority imposed on our consciousness by print culture is precisely what social media — and blogs especially — are helping to reverse. This is perhaps one of the most significant aspects of today’s media: we are drawn outward, rather than inward.

In particular, the group or community-based blog encourages a “return of the oral,” as the words typed into a blog are not closed, not final, but open-ended, as is a conversation. They’re specifically written with the expectation of a response, inside the blog’s “comments” sections. The “interior conscious” that print encourages is now, on the blog, an exterior consciousness, captured within a database.

The blog is both drawing us outward in terms of relating to other people, and creating an exteriority of thought in its database.


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