The Spoken Web

Isn’t he lovely? Photo by Jurec, who found this Buddha “who really listens” in a Tempel in Hangzhou, China www.pixelio.de

Asia is listening as IBM India Research Laboratory tests the World Wide Telecom Web (WWTW), a network of VoiceSites you access by phone. In this alternative to the WWW, users record a description and phone number of the VoiceSite they want to recommend using a regular phone. Callers listen and press a key or say a word when they find a site they want to be transferred to. I wonder how well voice recognition will work in India with its many dialects and languages, or in multilingual Asia and Africa. 70 per cent of the Indian population live in the country on $4 a day or less, so no computers. But 300 million people there use cellphones, with 8 million new subscribers each month. The market is gigantic. Since an astonishing 38.7 per cent of Indian adults can’t read or write, a phone-based web is perfect. (Wikipedia). (reporting: New Scientist, Computerworld)

I wonder: Is this the beginning of a new digital cultural divide? If the Spoken Web is a success, audio will rule there, while we seem to be going with text and video here. OK, we still call our friends and family, but do you leave as much voicemail as you send email? I wonder how this will develop in the next years.

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Anne

Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

4 thoughts on “The Spoken Web”

  1. Very interesting question, Anne. There is a basic need for fixing time and experience in writing, for any human being. There is such a mystery in written messages, calling out to be decoded… the divide you talk/write about is the educational divide. Education is one of the main human rights. Evryone should have access to education and writing.
    (I love this buddha!).
    Alice

  2. I agree, Alice. There’s the very practical issue of not being able to work in the modern ecomomy without that basic skill, so you have these parallel systems, with children migrating between them and bringing in culture.
    But your calling it “a basic need for fixing time and experience” goes deeper. At least in the way we’ve been brought up there are levels of reflection through rereading and self-editing that I think we can only achieve when we write. Now, that may not be the same all over the world; oral cultures do develop oral memories that I, for one, don’t have. I’m all for promoting oral culture, too – to make sure we don’t get too fixed on written text!

  3. You are right, maybe I should not say”all human beings”, because “les peuples sans écriture” do exist. But the vast majority of human beings do know of the possibility of writing, and of texts being there, waiting to be read.
    You say you “don’t have oral memories” or “oral culture”? I’m sure you do. We all have an oral culture and oral memories, but we don’t pause long enough to trigger them back into the present time, like Proust did. We have memories from all our senses : oral memories are often very strong : our mum’s voice when reading tales for us, tales that are still there with us as adults, a song we heard at a precise moment that changed something in our lives…

    I don’t think we are “too fixed on written text”, but, regarding teaching, the pendulum swang all the way back again : from no writing at all to keeping in mind the different “learning styles” of learners… all in all writing is important to teaching languages : the link between written and spoken words is essential to get phonetics and writing right, I think. I loved your you tube “spoken verse” link, precisely because written poetry was closely connected with spoken words, to make poetry a fuller experience, including two of our senses : sight and hearing. Together with the brain collaboration, they give us access to a deeper perception of the poems.

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