From a recent question in Ask Figaro:
Dear Figaro—I teach a Digital Rhetoric course (and, naturally, I introduce the topic of rhetoric through your book). I’d like to hear from you about where you think that rhetoric is headed given the technological advances and the many new media available to us for rhetoric? Do the internet, TV and cell phones (“smart phones”) lead us toward orality again and away from a literate culture? What are your thoughts?
Let’s look at the facts. Newspaper and magazine readerships are down. In 1995, the average American read at least the beginning of 10 books; the number has shrunk to 4 today, with more than a third of adults reading no books at all. Our political debates are conducted orally, through sound bites, ad campaigns, and televised debates. Business decisions get made orally, through PowerPoint presentations, teleconferencing, and face-to-face meetings. Yes, we do have emails, and blogs like this one, but as I argue in my book, those media count as quasi-oral. (See chapter 22, “The Jumbotron Blunder.”)
Figaro isn’t thrilled about the trend. He’s hawking a book for one thing. Plus, we lose the depth of thought that reading enables. Good or bad, though, it’s reality: we have already switched from a written to an oral society. Schools and colleges must follow your fine example and foster oral sophistication through the teaching of rhetoric.
But then, anachronism is one of the many charms of the liberal arts. During the American Revolution, pamphlets and newspapers led the charge; yet colleges still taught as if the printing press hadn’t been invented.
So give them time. They’ll catch on in a century or so.