Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ong Timeline: From Orality to (Digital) Literacy to Plastic Surgery

4000 BC: Egyptians develop and use makeup, including kohl and henna
3500 BC: Sumerians in Mesopotamia develop Cuneiform 
3000 BC: Egyptians develop hieroglyphics 
1500 BC: Chinese script
1200 BC: Indus Valley script
1200-200 BC: Paper in Europe (1200 BC); 
the Middle East (800 BC); China (200 BC)
1500 BC: Invention of the alphabet 
800 BC: Greeks developed first alphabet with vowels
700 BC: Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey recorded
370 BC: Plato’s Phaedrus (tension between orality and literacy)
300 BC: oral culture is essentially replaced by writing culture
51 BCE: Cleopatra becomes Queen of Egypt
AD 50: Mayan Script
AD 550-700: the Latin spoken as a vernacular in Europe now evolved into Romance languages
AD700: speakers of Romantic languages can no longer understand old written Latin
AD 700: Learned Latin in schools (only males have access to Learned Latin)
AD 1400: Aztec script
AD 1716: K’anghsi dictionary of Chinese lists 40,545 characters, making it the largest and most complex language system
1440: Gutenberg invents the printing press
1515: Peter Ramus invents textbook genre
1500s: rhetoric textbooks omit “memory” from traditional five parts of rhetoric, signaling the continuted shift from oral to written culture
1792: Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women published
1800s: rise of the novel
1803: First English papermaking machine in use
1825:  'reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic: attributed to a toast given by Sir William Curtis around, signaling a non-rhetorical, bookish, domestic education
1830s: the corset was thought to be a medical necessity for fragile women
1838: Charles Fenerty of Halifax makes the first paper from wood pulp (aka: newsprint)
1840: First American patent issued in photography to Alexander Wolcott for his camera
1857: Ferdinand de Saussure, the “father of modern linguistics” born
1860s: Famous Abe Lincoln photograph is manipulated by placing Abe’s head on John Calhoun’s body to make Lincoln look more “statured”
1869: N.W. Ayer establishes first advertising agency
1888: Kodak box camera developed by George Eastman
1888: Printer's Ink, first advertising industry journal, launched
1890: First surgical breast augmentation performed using paraffin injections.
1892: Vogue launched as a weekly publication
1914: 35 mm cameras produced
1954: C.S. Lewis observes that "rhetoric is the greatest barrier between us and our ancestors"
1912: Walter Ong born
1917: U.S. enters WWI
1928: Milman Parry discovers the formulaic/oral nature of Homer’s poems
1928: First regularly scheduled television service begins in U.S.
1932: color photo printing in newspaper pioneered 
Late 1940s: television is becoming a medium widely known in the U.S.
1945: World War II ends
1951: Marshall McLuhan's The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of the Industrial Man published
1967: Jaques Derrida publishes three books, Writing and DifferenceSpeech and Phenomena, and Of Grammatology1967: English supermodel, actress and singer Twiggy (Lesley Hornby) arrives in the U.S
1967: Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore's The Medium is the Massage published
1972: the term “visual culture” to indicate a cultural shift is first used by Michael Baxandall in Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy
1972: Ms. Magazine launched
1973: Vogue becomes a monthly publication
1973: Our Bodies, Ourselves published
1976: Eric Havelock claims that vowels in Greek alphabet allow for abstraction of thought
1976: The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders is established. 
1979: Jean-Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition published. 
1980s: Silicone breast implants take off
1985: Donna Haraway's A Cyborg Manifesto published
1987: Thomas Knoll begins writing graphics subroutines for Photoshop on a Mac Plus. 1990: Photoshop 1.0 released
1991: World Wide Web Launched
1994: First Photoshop version with "layers" feature introduced
1994: First Botox procedure performed
1996: Mirabilis launches ICQ, which leads to the explosion of instant messaging on the internet
1997: Google.com registered as a domain name
1999: 15% of Fijian girls report eating disorders, up from 0% five years after the introduction of television
2002: Blackberry PDA released
2003: MySpace launched
2004: first incarnation of Facebook launched
2005: YouTube registered as a domain name
2007: Android operating system unveiled
2007: iPhone hits U.S. market
2008: first Presidential election to incorporate social marketing tools, including Facebook and Twitter
2009: 12.5 million cosmetic surgeries take place in the U.S.
2010: Apple releases iPad


About this:

This timeline was created in response to an assignment in Dr. Saper's Texts and Technology in History course to create a timeline around Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy integrating our own research/work. Ong relates nicely to my work in body technologies and digital literacy and helps me make connections between the two topics as he argues that the shift from oral culture to written culture (and beyond) affects not only cultural values and social structures but our mental processes. I am particularly interested in how such shifts (specifically the shift from written to print and visual or image-based culture) affect our relationships with ourselves and our bodies. The normalization of cosmetic surgery procedures results from the beauty ideal perpetuated by visual culture, specifically a patriarchal visual culture. Women internalize the ideal and subject themselves to expensive, dangerous procedures as a result. Of course it is not this simple, but leads to my point that technology holds such potential for radical progress in our culture where gender and other identity categories are concerned, yet we replicate the same tired ol' constructs--amplify them, really--using these promising technologies. It's an interesting paradox, this backward progress.

My timeline is organized to reflect the events Ong highlights in his argument and includes important events related to my own research to demonstrate their connections. I highlight events that mark developments that have had profound effects on social order, cultural values, and that contribute to the increase in print and visual culture that ultimately lead to increased dissatisfaction with women's natural, imperfect bodies and in turn, an increased need to "fix" them using technology. Unlike Ong, I emphasize the development of the printing press, as this is one of the most profound developments where fashion and beauty culture is concerned, allowing for the mass distribution of beauty ideals. Complicating my argument, I discovered that Egyptians were wearing makeup before they developed hieroglyphics so I am still wrestling with what to do with the early pieces of all this, which is something I hope to accomplish in this class.

Digital literacy and "electracy" (a la Gregory Ulmer) are useful tools to counter the negative impacts of visual/digital culture as we learn to decode and think critically about the images we see, how and why they are manipulated, and who manipulates them. I read Orality and Literacy in my first T&T class, so reading it again in my last is a perfect bookend, introducing me to key ideas in T&T and now allowing me to usefully connect Ong to my dissertation work.

Several additions were made to the timeline after reading Johanna Drucker and Emily McVarish's Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide. Most additions (including more specific Photoshop entries, the reign of Cleopatra as Queen of Egypt, relevant publications, and dates related to wars and other significant events) highlight historical developments that might reflect broader cultural shifts relating to media representations of gendered bodies and practices, image manipulation, and/or cosmetic surgery.

Creator: Leandra Preston
Helpers: Barbara Kyle, William Dorner, Jen Wojton 

1 comment:

  1. Leandra,
    I like the way you arranged your information—it's very easy to follow, and the images are great.
    Your timeline is interesting in the juxtaposition of makeup and early civilizations. Hieroglyphic conventions always show the human face in profile with the eyes in a frontal position and the makeup prominent, and it’s interesting to note that heavily made-up pictograms formed some of the earliest written communication. Your observations on makeup predating hieroglyphics make me think of other pre-literate cultures that invested heavily in permanent body decoration to signify royalty (the Maori come to mind). Do you think Egyptian makeup is related to prior notions of status through body decoration?
    Also—did you ever get a chance to see the PBS special on Arden and Rubenstein (http://www.pbs.org/thepowderandtheglory/)? I think it shows that even modern notions of beauty started from a much different place than what we experience now.
    I'm really interested in what you uncover in your research--