Gutenberg Parenthesis / Secondary Orality

Secondary orality is orality that is dependent on literate culture and the existence of writing, such as a television anchor reading the news or radio. While it exists in sound, it does not have the features of primary orality because it presumes and rests upon literate thought and expression, and may even be people reading written material. Thus, secondary orality is usually not as repetitive, redundant, agonistic, etc. the way primary orality is, and cultures that have a lot of secondary orality are not necessarily similar to primarily oral cultures.

Through the lens of the Gutenberg Parenthesis, the author Walter Ong suggests that despite its dominance and prestige today, print literacy is an exception in the long arc of human history.

He argues that through electronic media, we may be in the process of restoring earlier modes of communication, which are based on speech instead of writing. As it does, it will fragment the number of perspectives in the world. As Ong wrote: "One of the oddest things about printing was that it delivered monopoly control over the expression of the truth to those who controlled publication.”

Excerpt from David Parell's Monday Musings newsletter

Relevant: McLuhan's Global Village