Oral traditions in online communication


As proof of one of the benefits - reinforcement - of the invention of writing, I got round to reading Stephen Harnad's article properly after seeing it quoted in a number of weblogs this week. Harnad has written an interesting essay on what he calls 'skywriting' - basically elaborating your thoughts to an open group, online. Although it doesn't explore any alternative possibilities for peer-to-peer interaction, it's an interesting historical analysis of human progression through and rexploration of various forms of communication.

Harnad encourages researchers to report their work using open peer commentary (Drupal/Scoop or a tailored solution?), and advocates the informal conversational style of skywriting and online commenting (combined with toll-free acess). This partly contrasts with Joel Spolsky's opposing views on how communication in forums should be carried out, which lead to more considered group interaction. It's difficult to say which view is the more traditional or would be the most effective, but trying to read the quote/comment discussion that accompanies Harnad's article I have to agree with Joel - it's incredibly annoying to have to read the same thing again when it's quoted in a reply. This works well for email, and is an advantage over oral communication, but discussion of skywriting really needs to be formed as structured debate.