In which I inexplicably mention Plato

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Shockingly, I was actually able to use knowledge gained as part of my MS program while I was at work today. (To give you some context, I work as a codegeek sort of person for a telecommunications company and my MS program was for Rhetoric.) Some coworkers and I were looking at note-taking programs, Evernote in particular. One of my coworkers started to speculate that technologies such as Evernote were helping to make our memories even worse.

At that point, I had a complete flashback to Walter J. Ong’s Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. Long, long ago, back at the advent of that radical technology, writing, the written word was seen as leading to the decline of the art of memory, which was very important in an oral culture. Plato spent some time in Phaedrus discussing the failings of writing: “Therefore every man of worth, when dealing with matters of worth, will be far from exposing them to ill feeling and misunderstanding among men by committing them to writing.” (Which actually sounds like a quote that we should all read before we send inflammatory emails or leave ranting comments on blogs!) Newsweek even had a short article (in 2005) comparing the clash of orality and literacy to the current clash between literacy and an increasingly visual culture.

Whew! Shall we celebrate visual culture and look at a picture of a cat now? 😉

“I thought she’d never finish, so I hit the ‘nip to make it through all of that rhetoric babble stuff.” -Chaos

31 thoughts on “In which I inexplicably mention Plato”

  1. If we were ever transplanted to the 40’s, I suspect our generation would not last long. Never mind 70 years ago, I’d say even 20 years ago.

    Evernote, huh? Do I really want to remember “everything”?! I try to write things down as much as possible. I’m more likely to return to written notes than run to my computer…

  2. I’m not going to worry about it until they design a program that allows me to cut and paste directly from my brain. And about the day I am able to do that, all y’all should worry too.

  3. The new fandangled way of spelling things – like ‘heyyyyy’ or ‘how r u 2day’ is ruining the written word.

    And Rock of Love Bus with Brett Michaels is ruining the visual world.


  4. See, now – my father, a writer and wordsmith would tell me that if you want to tell someone something and leave an impact, it should be done in writing. The spoken work is gone at the very moment it is delivered; but the written word is long pondered and everlasting.

  5. That’s ok Chaos, don’t feel bad. I had to wait till my coffee was ready before I went back to read that whole passage. Ah, OK I get it now. 😉 Writing an on line blog isn’t technologizing the word too much is it? I’ve been blogging in full sentences for a long time.

  6. Don’t you think our collective memory is getting better? We have this shared written (and visual) experience now.

    (I will admit that I, too, had to have some coffee and reread this post before commenting…)

  7. Oooh, thanks for the Evernote link; I’m checking it out (I use OneNote and love it… but something on the web would be handy).

    Interestingly, I’m a visual person, and I remember things much better if I write them down.

  8. It has been ages since I’ve read any of the Classics, so I had to go and check out the entry on Wikipedia. It was very interesting (I’ll have to add a translation to the pile of things I have out from the library).

  9. Using higher education in the real world! Having a PhD, I know that is rare.

    Wow, Chaos, one teeny-tiny paragraph on rhetoric and you’re done for. Perhaps you are searching for excuses to hit the ‘nip?

  10. I have a degree in history, and once got all excited at work when someone asked “So what is the Magna Carta, anyway?” Yes, I lead a sad existence….

  11. Yes, long-term memory is a thing of the past. What did I have for breakfast? I don’t take notes! If my brain can’t remember it then it must not have been that important.

    Will Chaos share his catnip? I think I need a quick high…

  12. I feel like I need to hit the ‘nip now too. 🙂

    I spent the weekend exploring OneNote, Microsoft’s version of note taking software. I’ve had it on my computer for a while but ignored it until this weekend. I like it because it collects all of those bits and pieces of stuff I want to remember but get spread everywhere.

  13. I don’t know if it’s aging, or the fact that I read a lot less print media, but my memory isn’t what it used to be. I listen to a lot of books via Audible, and spend way to much time reading articles online. In addition, I also read books on either my Palm or iPhone. Now I find it hard to concentrate on longer print articles. I don’t know if the two are connected, but it’s interesting to contemplate. (I’m also an Evernote user.)

  14. Interesting. I’m thinking Rhetoric would be somewhat similar to linguistics which is my BA subject. I’m interested in it still but haven’t done more studying. I’d love to get a technology job with it, but so far nothing. I heard a bit about the Facebook stuff, but I’m still unimpressed. Oh, and I always thought that my memory stuff had to do with having had kids. I’m sad that many other people have the same problem. Although I am horrible about thinking that something that happened on TV actually happened to me 😉

  15. How interesting that some early proponents of rhetoric feel the need to damn the next wave of communication and expression as destructive. Some might argue that, though we lose some things we perhaps gain others. I suspect there were other considerations such as loss of prestige, changes in class structure and, therefore, political unrest.

    But then there’s cats. And yarn. And the ‘tubes, by which we would’ve never connected if we never learned how to write.

  16. When I was still in high school, we had to commit certain famous passages to memory (Gettysburg Address, Shakespeare, etc). That may have been our teachers trying to preserve oral traditions, though I’m sure we didn’t memorize nearly the amount of text as generations before us. I wonder now if students are required to do it at all?

    As to notetaking, I’m a pen and paper sort of girl. I find I have to write things down more than ever, but only because there is so much now available to us to see, read, knit, buy, and visit, that there’s no way we can keep track of everything all in our heads. I agree with the person who said that sometimes when we lose some things, we gain others. In this case, choice!

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