Oral Tradition and the Internet
Pathways of the Mind
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Table of Nodes
A preface (literally, a “fore-speaking”) conventionally serves a number of purposes. It can, for example, provide a point of entry, chart a map for the journey to follow, and describe what the book that it’s introducing aims to accomplish, and also not to accomplish. But whether you’re reading these words on paper or in pixels, you will quickly realize that such conventions don’t really apply here. ...
For Book-readers Only
This node was created to serve as one possible introduction to (one of several avenues into) Oral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind, the book associated with the Pathways Project. For that purpose it emphasizes the disorientation necessarily involved in abandoning the default medium of the book in order to grasp the dynamics of alternative media—specifically OT and IT. As such, it explains how tAgora-speak (tAgora) doesn’t and can’t translate to...
Home Page: Welcome to the Pathways Project
The major purpose of the Pathways Project is to illustrate and explain the fundamental similarities and correspondences between humankind’s oldest and newest thought-technologies: oral tradition and the Internet. Despite superficial differences, both technologies are radically alike in depending not on static products but rather on continuous processes, not on “What?” but on “How do I get there?” In contrast to the fixed spatial organization of the page and book, the technologies of oral tradition and the Internet mime the way...
Getting Started: How to Surf the Pathways Project
What you’re scrolling through on your virtual desktop or physically holding in your hands is in some ways a text, but it’s also a great deal more than that. The Pathways Project departs from a stand-alone, linear text in two fundamental ways. First, the online version of the Pathways Project consists of a network of linked nodes that presents the contents of the book but also adds many connections and opportunities that books just can’t support. ...
The Pathways Project is devoted to exploring the homology between oral tradition (OT) and Internet technology (IT). But let me be careful to stipulate a basic and very important disclaimer: homology does not mean absolute equivalence. On the web,1 and I would add on the web we call OT (Online with OT), it means “the quality of being similar or corresponding in position or value or structure or function.” Nowhere in either the morphing book or the online wiki (Getting Started)...
Book versus Website
As the Pathways Project has matured and Oral Tradition and the Internet has moved toward publication, the relationship between the wiki-website and the book has changed in interesting ways. Applying the Golden Rule of multiple media—to leverage each medium to do what it does best—I have abbreviated and focused the tAgora presentation. While the online resource retains all of the nodes and numerous accompanying images, Oral Tradition and the Internet features the most prominent and significant nodes with a few selected images. ...
The University of Illinois Press1 engaged two anonymous readers to review the manuscript of Oral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind in the context of its accompanying wiki-website. Their comments and suggestions have led to additions, subtractions, and revisions that have substantially improved the Pathways Project as a whole. In the spirit of interactive exchange that lies at the foundation of the Project, let me enumerate their major points and offer...
Linkmaps amount to suggested routes through the wiki network, particular sequences of ePathways that have been found to be illuminating in one way or another. An example is eWorld, a linkmap of nodes that leads from Leapfrogging the Text to Museum of Verbal Art to Resynchronizing the Event to Systems versus Things. En route the surfer will have an opportunity to think about a textless world, the new-media landscape for literature and oral tradition, an...
Nodes in Alphabetical Order
A Foot in Each World
Common sense and agora-savvy would seem to indicate that the individual person who feels completely at home in more than one verbal marketplace must be rare indeed. Of course, the Pathways Project actively encourages citizenship in multiple agoras (Citizenship in Multiple Agoras) as a way to avoid agoraphobia (Agoraphobia) and culture shock (Culture Shock). But full fluency—full mediabilingualism or even-trilingualism—is another matter. Cognitive habits run...
A tricky concept, accuracy. And very often a code word summoned to praise tAgora activities while denigrating transactions in the oAgora and eAgora. We’re told that oral traditions can’t preserve history accurately, for example, or that the web is far too subject to change or multiplicity to be a really dependable medium. We’re asked to subscribe to (literally, to “underwrite”) the credo that text is the only possible vehicle for safely and faithfully conveying the immutable data we need to...
Agora As Verbal Marketplace
The ancient Greek word agora originally names a brick-and-mortar marketplace, a physical site for exchange, in general a center for municipal interactions of many sorts. The Athenian agora,6 for example, situated northwest of the Acropolis, seems to have been a bustling center for political, commercial, and religious activities throughout the fourth and fifth centuries BCE. It served its constituency uniquely as a designated public space and nexus for social transactions. ...
As explained in each of the three involved nodes—the oAgora, the tAgora, and the eAgora—our discussions of these verbal marketplaces and principal mediatypes follows a mirroring logic. Each section within a node is explicitly matched to corresponding, parallel sections in the other two nodes. The purpose of this structural strategy is to highlight the comparisons and contrasts (Three Agoras) that constitute the major subject of the Pathways Project (Getting Started). ...
The online Merriam Webster English dictionary7 defines agoraphobia as an “abnormal fear of being helpless in an embarrassing or unescapable situation that is characterized especially by the avoidance of open or public places.” Does this phenomenon apply to our three agoras—the oral, textual, and electronic marketplaces (Agora As Verbal Marketplace)—that lie at the basis of the Pathways Project (Agora Correspondences)? Can a person be phobic about media...
Arena of Oral Tradition
What does it mean to enter the oAgora? Why do you go there? Whom will you meet in that marketplace (Agora As Verbal Marketplace)? What kind of verbal exchange can you reasonably expect to happen there? How do you leave and how do you return? Try conceiving of the experience as entering an arena, a space defined by the activities that transpire there rather than by geography or other physical attributes. It is a space for recurrent rather than repetitive activities (Recur Not...
Arena of Text
What does it mean to enter the tAgora? Why do you go there? Whom will you meet in that marketplace (Agora As Verbal Marketplace)? What kind of verbal exchange can you reasonably expect to happen there? How do you leave and how do you return? Try conceiving of the experience as entering an arena, a space defined by the activities that transpire there rather than by geography or other physical attributes. It is a space for repetitive rather than recurrent activities (Recur Not Repeat)...
Arena of the Web
What does it mean to enter the eAgora? Why do you go there? Whom will you meet in that marketplace (Agora As Verbal Marketplace)? What kind of verbal exchange can you reasonably expect to happen there? How do you leave and how do you return? Try conceiving of the experience as entering an arena, a space defined by the activities that transpire there rather than by geography or other physical attributes. It is a space for recurrent rather than repetitive activities (Recur not...
Most of our elite contemporary forms of performance—drama, classical music concerts, ballet, opera, formal poetry readings, and so on—call for polite, narrowly defined participation by audiences. We’re encouraged to applaud and perhaps allowed to quietly express our disapproval, but these reactions are customarily permitted only after the performance has finished. To interrupt an ongoing event with audible comments or visible responses is normally considered...
Bellerophon and His Tablet
It’s endemically difficult to comprehend in our present tAgora-dominated environment, but letters and pages and books didn’t always have the upper hand (Texts and Intertextuality). They didn’t always represent the trump technology, the medium through which all other media had to be interpreted. Nowhere is this more evident than in a tale from Homer’s Iliad, a perilous episode that at...
Citizenship in Multiple Agoras
You know how it goes. You’re planning a trip to another country and find you need a passport, maybe a visa, perhaps even a special travel permit beyond that. Documents in hand, you get off the plane, pass through immigration and customs, change some currency, and—if you’re able—switch to the local language. But even if your vocabulary isn’t spotty, even if your syntax and grammar prove serviceable, you can’t simply assume immediate membership in the new...
Cloud and Tradition
Wikipedia defines the Cloud13 as “Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like the electricity grid.” But of course this new initiative hasn’t made its appearance without causing ripples. No radical change in media ever fails to elicit a mix of excitement and resistance, and typically we hear both encouraging and worried pronouncements about what the Cloud means for...
Contingency is everywhere, if we’re willing to look: in politics, in economics, in philosophy, in social identity, in the plans we make, even in the plans that others make for us. Here is a brief but perhaps representative litany. Political successions often consist of a nest of contingencies. Home-buying is often made contingent on various related issues such as appraisal, loan qualification, home inspection, and so forth. Philosophers15 define contingency as “the study of propositions...
Culture As Network
It’s a stubborn, recurrent, and seemingly unanswerable question. How can oral traditions, which live to morph and morph to live, ever provide suitable, sustainable support for the unimaginably rich and complex embeddedness we know as “culture”? You know the objection: OTs just involve too much variation and not enough stability over time, too many nagging loose ends in an ever-fraying fabric. And of course there’s the more recent version of what amounts to the very same...
You’re seated quietly in the corner of a cozy little brasserie in Paris. You’ve struggled through the menu (there’s no English version available), lodged your order, and the food and drink you requested have been delivered. But there’s a problem: you can’t begin to eat because you’re lacking a fork and spoon. Easy enough to remedy the situation if you could resort to your native language, but try as you might you just can’t dredge up from your high...
For most of us who spend substantial time in the tAgora, authorship is an unambiguous term and idea. Hardly a mystery in common usage, “to author” means to create and thus to own a work-become-item. So deeply woven into text-making is this idea of sole, exclusive agency and ownership that we have trouble even imagining a text without an author. Look no further than our transparent attribution of uncertain creations to that prolific author “Anonymous,” a practice...
Don't Trust Everything You Read in Books
Let me get this straight—Don’t trust everything you read in books, eh? Curious phrase. And considering the thousands of libraries and bookstores packed with ton after ton of these apparently untrustworthy artifacts, a more than mysterious sentiment. So it’s only fair to step back and ask: Why in the world did we invent such a dismissive, nay-saying proverb (Proverbs)? Although cliché-driven wisdom of this sort is famously anonymous, at least three credible explanations present themselves. ...
eAgora: Electronic Networks to Surf
An agora is a verbal marketplace (Agora As Verbal Marketplace)—a site for creation and exchange of knowledge, art, and ideas. The Pathways Project recognizes three agoras, or arenas for human communication (Three Agoras). This node is devoted to the IT arena, the eAgora. The true currency of exchange in the eAgora is eWords (eWords)—coded, virtual, and linked words. Not typographical prompts, but an actual, clickedon, in-context performance experienced at that moment and in that place by a...
eCompanions provide support that can’t be housed between the covers of a book, whether due to media disparities or to publishing priorities. They can contain audio and video files (whether streaming or downloadable), photographs, supplementary texts, databases, links to other pertinent Internet resources, and so forth. eCompanions are critical for the presentation and understanding of oral traditions because they promote the user’s understanding of...
eEditions promote the resynchronization of oral performance by recombining the parts that appear only separately—if at all—in the book format. The audio or video of the performance plays alongside a transcription and translation, and the apparatus (commentary, glossary of idioms, and other contextual materials) is linked to the translation. Clicking on those links makes the relevant material visible in a scrollable box on the same page, so that audio/video, text...
Pathways sport a double identity: individually, they lead from one node to another; but corporately, they constitute an interactive network with innumerable built-in possibilities. The idea and term stem from the oAgora, the arena (Arena of Oral Tradition) in which Homer describes the qualities that an ancient Greek oral epic singer must possess in order to be a successful bard. Here’s a hint—he doesn’t mention a loud and clear voice, a fine memory, or a large repertoire...
eWords are the designated means of exchange in the eAgora, the default currency of the IT marketplace. More to the point, given the performative power of this special code, eWords are customarily the only currency that IT surfers hold and spend. On the other hand, given the control exerted by textual ideology (Ideology of the Text) in most aspects of our daily lives, it can be difficult to imagine any medium other than tWords (tWords). Agoraphobia (Agoraphobia) is so powerful that it’s hard even to conceive (Culture Shock) of a nontextual...
Excavating an Epic
Sometimes the oAgora—like the eAgora—presents us with puzzling phenomena that seem to defy ready explanation. Often the puzzle stems not from the phenomenon itself but from a misguided reflex. We try and fail to fit the new reality into our default frame of reference, based as it almost always is (for this historical moment, at least) on the deeply embedded ideology of the tAgora (Ideology of the Text). Sometimes, in other words, we encounter an event or situation that...
In July 2008 the German publisher Bertelsmann announced what has been called a first in print publishing history: a one-volume encyclopedia with 90,000 authors45 made up of the 25,000 most popular articles from the German Wikipedia (Wikipedia: Die freie Enzyklopädie).46 Published in September 2008 and planned as an annual series, it offers the inimitable riches of the online networked resource between the covers of a conventional book. Or does it? ...
Getting Published or Getting Sequestered
You’ve spent the last six years hidden away in a small, sparsely furnished walkup in a dilapidated old brownstone in Brooklyn. You live alone, except for an elderly cat, and you don’t go out much. Your friends and acquaintances are remarkably few; you seldom meet, phone, email, or text them, and you can’t even remember the last time you Tweeted or checked Facebook. You clearly don’t measure up to Aristotle’s vision of a social being. ...
Homo Sapiens' Calendar Year
Sometimes it seems as though writing has been with us forever in one form or another. Pre-Gutenberg media such as the rich manuscript traditions of the ancient and medieval worlds, not to mention even earlier inscribed tablets from the Middle East, are commonly thought to offer evidence of writing systems coeval with the development of civilization as we know it. But perhaps that’s the point—just how do we “know it”? Our default notion of history is founded on documentation, that is, on textualized knowledge. ...
How to Build a Book
Long before there were commercial or university presses, or even printing presses for that matter, there existed a highly developed technology for making texts (Texts and Intertextuality)—that is, for making manuscripts and for combining manuscript pages into collective codices. Of course, every step of this process— from finding and preparing the basic materials through actually writing out and gathering the texts—required enormous labor and know-how, and as...
Ideology of the Text
Ideologies preempt considered judgments. They short-circuit critical thinking by automatically defaulting to familiar, comfortable, predesignated positions. Political ideologies provide perhaps the most familiar example in our everyday world. Instead of confronting social realities as the complex, many-sided phenomena they actually are, we often settle for honoring our subscription to this or that ideology. In the process we terminate open-minded consideration...
Illusion of Object
“Say, hand me Beloved, will you?” “Have you downloaded the latest Coen Brothers film yet?” “I don’t have that rendition of Moonlight Sonata by Vladimir Ashkenazy, do you?” None of these questions—or the myriad others that we could pose about myriad works of art—seems strange or unusual. Why not? Because the presupposition that the work under discussion is a text, an item, a thing is the operating assumption, the ultimate tAgora bottom line. Someone constructed that thing, felt it had...
Illusion of Stasis
The problem? Simply that the fieldworkers and the scholar were proceeding by making tAgora assumptions about what was clearly an oAgora phenomenon. They were speaking the language of things rather than the language of systems (Systems versus Things). Let’s dramatize this disparity in marketplaces (Agora As Verbal Marketplace) by formulating two sets of questions. ...
Impossibility of tPathways
tPathways don’t and can’t exist. They represent an impossible formulation, a nonconcept. Why? Because in-text references can’t foster instantaneous and continuous access beyond the text. Because textual citations can’t engage a network; all they can designate are other static things. Because any strategy that breaks the spell of the textual experience (Ideology of the Text) by shifting the reader’s attention away from that text must by definition amount to a counterproductive strategy. ...
In the Public Domain
To the book-bound mentality, such a strategy may appear at best unlikely and counterintuitive, at worst simply wrongheaded (Ideology of the Text). But it accurately (Accuracy) describes how oral tradition and the Internet operate in their versions of the public domain—the oAgora and the eAgora—the arenas in which each thought-technology thrives most naturally. Despite what our default cultural reflexes encourage us to believe, OT and IT prosper not via the textual...
Sometimes, curiously enough, textual words provide no nourishment whatsoever. We don’t expect that, of course, since the dominant ideology insists that handwritten or printed or pixel-imaged content is always and forever “there,” ever ready to be consumed and digested (Ideology of the Text). All cultural expectation to the contrary, however, texts and their tWords (tWords) can prove to be merely empty calories. ...
Just the Facts
When we want to decrease or eliminate uncertainty or subjectivity, we often narrow our focus to “the facts.” Instead of filtered reality, so goes the ideology (Ideology of the Text), these irreducible verities offer us the unfiltered version—the real story, what actually transpired as opposed to an interpretation. By removing human agency and the fallibility and inaccuracy that are its inescapable trademarks, we gain access to a universal, freestanding level...
Leapfrogging the Text
Sometimes truth proves considerably stranger than fiction and serendipity more instructive than carefully wrought analysis. What follows is one of those cases: a real-life event that illustrates firsthand the close correspondence between oral tradition and the Internet, between the oAgora and the eAgora. In other words, it amounts to a parable on the confluence of OT and IT (Agora Correspondences) that, remarkably enough, really happened. ...
Pathways (oPathways) permeate and define the oAgora. They constitute its expressive universe, providing rich opportunities to create individual performances within a rule-governed environment. But they can’t guarantee success, or even intelligibility, any more than a knowledge of French guarantees unerringly fluent conversation in a Parisian café. OT, like language in general, sponsors surfing along multiply linked pathways, and such surfing can sometimes...
As explained in Getting Started (Getting Started), the overall Project consists of two parts: (1) a website,71 technically a wiki with gatekeeping (Wiki); and (2) a book entitled Oral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind. Both aspects share the central mission of analyzing and representing the fundamental homology between oral tradition and the Internet, and the basic contrast of the oAgora and eAgora, on the one hand, with the very different textual marketplace...
Museum of Verbal Art: A Parable
Imagine a museum that houses and displays the core of the literary canon—literature as we know it, or, more to the point, as generations of scholars and students have established its scope and identity.72 Visitors to this privileged edifice have the opportunity to trek through the most treasured of texts, to read and study what Western culture has identified as the very most important verbal art, from the ancient to the contemporary world. Admission is gratis, the...
Not So Willy-nilly
For many the oAgora and eAgora are venues for indeterminacy, “anythinggoes” behavior, and even outright chaos. As media-technologies they seem to license undirected, scattershot activities, with surfers free to blaze their own individualized, unpredictable trails through a maze with far too many options. Here’s the often-cited problem in a nutshell: if performers or users can proceed just as they wish—lacking the one-way, exitless highway that predetermines...
oAgora: Oral Networks to Surf
An agora is a verbal marketplace, a site for creation and exchange of knowledge, art, and ideas (Agora As Verbal Marketplace). The Pathways Project recognizes three agoras, or arenas for human communication (Three Agoras). This node is devoted to the OT arena, the oAgora. The true currency of exchange in the oAgora is oWords (oWords)—spoken, heard, and embodied words. Not typographical prompts or even audio or video...
Online with OT
Let’s start with Corey Doctorow’s neat, succinct contrast between old and new media, taken from a talk on digital rights management88 he gave to Microsoft’s Research Group as early as June 17, 2004: “New media don’t succeed because they’re like the old media, only better: they succeed because they’re worse than the old media at the stuff the old media are good at, and better at the stuff the old media are bad at.” ...
Pathways sport a double identity: individually, they lead from one node to another; but corporately, they constitute an interactive network with innumerable built-in possibilities. The idea and term stem from the oAgora, the arena in which Homer describes the qualities that an ancient Greek oral epic singer must possess in order to be a successful bard (Arena of Oral Tradition). Here’s a hint: he doesn’t mention a loud and clear voice, a fine memory, or a large repertoire...
Owning versus Sharing
What does it mean to own something? How do we come into possession of an item or idea, and what are the rules for sharing it with others? There’s probably no hotter issue in today’s digital, Internet-enabled world, and yet it’s also an issue that has deep roots in the long history and prehistory of media (Homo Sapiens’ Calendar Year). ...
oWords are the designated means of exchange in the oAgora, the default currency of the OT marketplace. More to the point, given the performative power of this special code, oWords are customarily the only currency that OT surfers hold and spend. On the other hand, given the control exerted by textual ideology in most aspects of our daily lives (Ideology of the Text), it can be difficult to imagine any medium other than tWords (tWords). Agoraphobia (Agoraphobia)...
Here’s how Clive James describes the “structure” of his influential 2007 book, Cultural Amnesia, a kind of example-driven inventory of humanity’s brilliant and terrifying creativity. As he assembled his vast compendium over four decades, working from individual parts toward a provisional whole, James started to see that the conventional vehicles of historiography were inadequate to the task of conveying his vision (James 2007, xv)...
Real proverbs serve as behavioral guides in various societies, providing generic, time-tested perspectives on the apparent chaos of everyday life. In this node we’ll offer a group of homemade, entirely nontraditional proverbs to help recall how the oAgora and eAgora share similar dynamics (Disclaimer). Originally formulated for understanding OT, these eight “pearls of wisdom” also speak to transactions in the virtual marketplace of IT. ...
Let’s face it: most Western pages are ruthlessly tyrannical. They mandate a leftto- right, top-to-bottom, one-after-another regimen, and there’s simply no appeal to their authority. Words and sentences move eastward, as it were, and paragraphs move toward the south until you reach the frontier of the present reading space and turn the page to cross the next frontier. Even eFiles, like the node-texts in the Pathways Project, follow this demanding convention to an...
Real-time versus Asynchronous
Are you caught up in the moment of surfing through an oral performance (Arena of Oral Tradition) or the web (Arena of the Web), working your way through an evolving, cooperative, real-time process? Are you involved in an emergent partnership that can’t be dissolved and rejoined but requires your ongoing attention and participation? Or, alternatively, are you using an asynchronous medium, holding the communicative process at arm’s length, stopping the proceedings...
Reality Remains in Play
“Call me Ishmael,” advises the narrator-character through whose voice we hear Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a recognized masterpiece in the tAgora. Every edition of the novel ever published starts with exactly those three tWords (tWords) and no others, and every edition of that work (except for shortened, expurgated versions like the one I suffered through in high school) continues according to a uniquely plotted itinerary. We meet Queequeg the harpooner, Starbuck the...
Recur Not Repeat
What do we mean by “repeating?” We mean to do something again, and to redo that something as exactly as possible. The smaller the variation (if any), the better; if there’s too much change, the second instance can’t qualify as a repetition of the first. With repetition we strive toward a linear sequence of identical acts, all in a row and each taking its meaning from the foregoing instance(s). Think of n, n 1, n 2, n 3, and so forth. ...
As the Wikipedia entry99 advises, remixing occurs in literature, art, music, and other media. More broadly, cultures are constantly interleaving old and new, domestic and foreign resources—combining religious beliefs and symbols, adapting governments and laws and customs as they encounter “new” cultural environments. The resulting remixes can be frozen into tAgora documents, and the process that produced them is thereby halted and fixed, at least for a while. ...
Here’s the scenario, doubtless only too familiar to all of us. A colleague, friend, family member, or student—or even, perish the thought, one of us—gets “cyberdetoured.” In the midst of serious, sustained investigation of Internet resources, navigating through networks and cocreating an experience, he or she (or we) illogically veer(s) offtrack, abandoning the pertinent and productive in favor of the irrelevant and time-wasting. Likely interruptions can include incoming...
Resynchronizing the Event
A serious charge: “we murder to dissect.” Exactly whom or what was he accusing? The answer? In Pathways Project terms, this appears to be a tAgora crime. From the beginning of the poem on, the principal object of the poet’s criticism is in fact none other than the book, which he unconditionally disparages as a source for wisdom. Wordsworth’s complaint against books was part of his program for composing poetry, which he felt should depend more on the simple...
Singing on the Page
The oAgora and tAgora are not sealed off, wholly segregated marketplaces. Nor are oral traditions and texts always and everywhere isolated from one another, impervious to influence from the other technology. Recall as a first principle that three of the four types of oral tradition either may or must involve texts in some way: voiced texts are composed in writing, albeit solely for oral performance; voices from the past involved both technologies in some now...
Spectrum of Texts: Five Types
Both over its relatively brief history and at the present time, the tAgora has proven a complex arena for communicative exchange (Arena of the Text). To reflect that complexity, this node briefly examines five major species of text that have lived and thrived within its confines: Symbols of/on clay, Greek letters on papyrus, Latin and runic letters on sheepskin, Typography on paper, and Static eFiles in pixels. ...
Stories Are Linkmaps
Oral traditions amount to cultural intranets, complex and ever-ramifying networks of options that the performer effectively clicks into being. When a teller performs a story, he or she surfs through a shared intranet, following a series of oPathways (oPathways) and activating certain nodes in the process. This model can offer a fresh perspective on two long-standing and stubborn questions in OT studies: (1) What does a story consist of? and (2) What happens...
Systems versus Things
The oAgora and eAgora are linked systems of potentials; conversely, the tAgora amounts to an assembled collection of things. The first two of these gathering places consist of sets of intangible pathways activated by navigators making their own decisions and choosing among evercontingent realities. The other is an expansive, generously stocked warehouse of already-finished items accessed by clients seeking an “objective” reality. The oAgora and eAgora present multiform possibilities, and only in the act...
tAgora: Exchanging Tangible Goods
An agora is a verbal marketplace (Agora As Verbal Marketplace), a site for creation and exchange of knowledge, art, and ideas. The Pathways Project recognizes three agoras, or arenas for human communication (Three Agoras). This node is devoted to the textual arena, the tAgora. The negotiable currency of exchange in the tAgora is tWords (tWords)—written or printed or onscreen bytes of information that we identify by inserting white space between them and enshrining them in dictionaries. Unlike oWords...
Texts and Intertextuality
For the purposes of the Pathways Project, the term “text” refers to a tAgora item, an objective and static thing. It is ownable (Owning versus Sharing) and available asynchronously (Real-time versus Asynchronous) as a whole entity. It is exchanged under applicable rules, very often under stringent copyright laws rather than Creative Commons licenses or open-source agreements. A text does not vary within limits. It supports trekking through lines and pages and...
The following table demonstrates some fundamental similarities between the oAgora and the eAgora—between OT and IT—as well as their mutual differences from the tAgora (Agora Correspondences). To start with our current cultural default (for the moment, at least), tAgora technology lives and functions not in a virtual but in a brick-and-mortar world. Books and pages provide tangible vehicles for word transactions; ideas are inscribed...
tWords are the designated means of exchange in the tAgora, the default currency of the textual marketplace. More to the point, given the control exerted by textual ideology over most aspects of our daily lives (Ideology of the Text), tWords are customarily the only currency we hold and spend. Agoraphobia (Agoraphobia) is so powerful that it’s hard even to conceive (Culture Shock) of any other communicative unit for our verbal transactions. How are tWords defined? Chiefly in three ways: typographically, lexically...
Variation within Limits
Suppose our foundation myth celebrating completeness (Illusion of Object) and fixity (Illusion of Stasis) didn’t explain the world of communication in all its diversity. Suppose there existed an alternate mythology, heretical to the tAgora faithful but defensible and applicable in its own right. Suppose further that this alternate media-story offered a better explanation (Responsible Agora-business) of the expressive dynamics typical of the oAgora and eAgora. What would such...
Why Not Textualize?
Why aren’t oral traditions always immediately written down or otherwise recorded just as soon as text-making becomes an available option? Why not take advantage of the newest, most advanced, most secure technology? Imagine a smoothly functioning oAgora, with its interactive web of links connected and functional. Performers and audiences conavigate along pathways established by earlier performers and audiences, constructing their shared reality as they go. The system of pathways (Systems versus Things) provides both...
The Pathways Project wiki is evolving along a trajectory toward an open-access facility. In its beginning stages, all of the contents were created by one person, John Miles Foley, but even from the very first entry (or node) onward the network has been open to and surfable by anyone who wished to access it. As the wiki develops, it will welcome input from others in the Contributions section,134 as well as track the surfing of visitors through its web of nodes (with their permission...
No book, oral tradition, or website is self-contained. Questions seek answers, answers beget more questions, and ideas evolve in unpredictable ways. As a gesture toward what the Pathways Project provokes, I offer a brief and highly selective list of resources that will assist the reader or surfer in following some of the issues and proposals raised by the book and wiki-website. ...
Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012
OCLC Number: 867784841
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Oral Tradition and the Internet