Starting with the Classical Age, Ong describes the oral tradition of education that was later converted to a manuscript tradition in the Middle Ages (a topic also discussed in "Space and Intellect in Renaissance Symbolism"). The printed word completed the conversion from the oral tradition and education reached its peak. Orality, however, has come back in fashion and, when paired with the printed word, has produced new complexities. The focus on oral technique and sound is working its way back into education as well as business and life in general, without excluding the visual and printed word.
The re-introduction of sound adds a personal aspect to a culture that the visual alone cannot provide. Sound presents an interior, while vision only allows the exterior. The new technologies offer this personal element to the culture, especially through television. As a result, the human person is receiving more attention because of our heightened technological culture.
Ong states that merely using the new technologies to educate is not the answer; instead, we must understand how these technologies influence culture. Also, educators are not to throw out language and literature, for such things are still needed. What is of the age that has not been the focus before is the emphasis on dialogue or vocal exchange between persons. This is the effect of new technologies on communication and, ultimately, on education.
Mark E. Johnson
University of Dayton