- Feb 2022
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Also, we shouldn’t underestimate the advantages of writing. In oralpresentations, we easily get away with unfounded claims. We candistract from argumentative gaps with confident gestures or drop acasual “you know what I mean” irrespective of whether we knowwhat we meant. In writing, these manoeuvres are a little too obvious.It is easy to check a statement like: “But that is what I said!” Themost important advantage of writing is that it helps us to confrontourselves when we do not understand something as well as wewould like to believe.
In modern literate contexts, it is easier to establish doubletalk in oral contexts than it is in written contexts as the written is more easily reviewed for clarity and concreteness. Verbal ticks like "you know what I mean", "it's easy to see/show", and other versions of similar hand-waving arguments that indicate gaps in thinking and arguments are far easier to identify in writing than they are in speech where social pressure may cause the audience to agree without actually following the thread of the argument. Writing certainly allows for timeshiting, but it explicitly also expands time frames for grasping and understanding a full argument in a way not commonly seen in oral settings.
Note that this may not be the case in primarily oral cultures which may take specific steps to mitigate these patterns.
Link this to the anthropology example from Scott M. Lacy of the (Malian?) tribe that made group decisions by repeating a statement from the lowest to the highest and back again to ensure understanding and agreement.
This difference in communication between oral and literate is one which leaders can take advantage of in leading their followers astray. An example is Donald Trump who actively eschewed written communication or even reading in general in favor of oral and highly emotional speech. This generally freed him from the need to make coherent and useful arguments.