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Friday, December 28, 2007

Oral culture online

You know how most communication, story-telling, and history used to be oral? Well, with social networking, humanity may be coming full circle. "Academic researchers are starting to [explore] the parallels between online social networks and tribal societies," the New York Times reports. "In the collective patter of profile-surfing, messaging and 'friending,' they see the resurgence of ancient patterns of oral communication. The growth of social networks - and the Internet as a whole - stems largely from an outpouring of expression that often feels more like 'talking' than writing: blog posts, comments, homemade videos and, lately, an outpouring of epigrammatic one-liners broadcast using services like Twitter and Facebook status updates." The Times tells of cultural anthropology Prof. Michael Wesch at Kansas State University who at one time lived with a tribe in Papua New Guinea, "studying how people forge social relationships in a purely oral culture." Dr. Wesch "applies the same ethnographic research methods to the rites and rituals of Facebook users."

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