Mudcat Café message #2280847 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #109111   Message #2280847
Posted By: Rowan
05-Mar-08 - 11:19 PM
Thread Name: Folk terminology
Subject: RE: Folk terminology
More on the effects of literacy on attention spans
Many years ago I was lectured (in oral history) by Nigel Oram, who'd done a fair amount of research in PNG, concentrating on the Motu. The most recent people in PNG to make the transition between "Prehistoric" (ie there was no writing and thus no written record within their culture) and "Historic" (where their cultural history started to be written, releasing them from having to memorise aurally and transmit their memories orally) was in the 1930s but the Motu had started the transfer about a generation earlier.

Genealogies were extremely important, as their "understanding" of timing in history was tied to the association of particular events to particular forbears. Their accuracy was verified by testing the accuracy of recollection (within a particular genealogy) of a volcanic eruption in their territory; analysis of their genealogy put the eruption at about 1200bp. An archaeological excavation within their territory had revealed a stratum containing volcanic ash which logic determined had to be from the same eruption mentioned in the genealogy. Radio-isotope dating of this ash gave its age, within quite close error-bars, as 1200bp.

Currently, their descendents have telly the way we do and suffer the same exposures to commercial programming, where programs are cut for ad breaks, themselves designed for attention spans of no more than 30 seconds and they are spaced through the programs every 10 minutes. This means that a dominating part of their culture diminishes the requirement of attention spans of greater than 10 minutes.

And we've been exposed to the same demeaning process for much longer, with measurable effects on students' (and teachers') classroom performance. Where we feel 'some obligation' to pay attention, so it's no wonder that the longer ballads are, these days, somewhat handicapped.

Cheers, Rowan