2 On the enormous and interdisciplinary field of studies in oral tradition, which covers more than 150 language areas from the ancient world to today, see the journal Oral Tradition (1986-), now available online, open-access, and free of charge. The Wikipedia article on OT provides historical context and bibliography. For comparative studies of OT from the ancient world to the present day, see Foley 1990, 1991, 1995.
3 See Kelber 1997 on the New Testament; Niditch 1996, Jaffee 1998 and 2001 on the Old Testament and Hebrew scriptures. A keyword search on “Bible” at the Oral Tradition website produces 71 downloadable articles.
4 On the connections between OT and Islam, see Denny 1989 and Speight 1989. Research and scholarship on OTs from the Near East, and in particular from Arabic-speaking peoples, is massive; for examples, see Slyomovics 1998 and Reynolds 1995. A keyword search on “Arabic” at the Oral Tradition website produces 52 downloadable articles.
5 Ancient Greek oral epics, principally Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, were among the first works to be recognized as originating in OT; see especially Parry 1971, which collects his research from 1925 onward. A keyword search on “ancient Greek” at the Oral Tradition website produces 94 downloadable articles. The first comparative thrust toward medieval oral and oral-derived works was Lord 1960, which proceeded by probing the analogy with living South Slavic oral epic. On the various OTs from the Former Yugoslavia, see Foley 2002: 188-218. On bilingual South Slavic/Albanian performers, see Kolsti 1990, Dushi 2003. A special issue of Oral Tradition on South Slavic OTs is available online. On the comparative extension to dozens of different language traditions, see Foley 1988. A sense of the broad reach of the field of studies in oral tradition can be gained by browsing the 22 years, 500 articles, and 10,000 pages of the journal Oral Tradition, now available online and free of charge.
6 On Indian epic and its oral roots, see Parthasarathy 1998. On the Mahabharata specifically, see Smith 1990; for another Indian oral epic tradition, Smith 1991. An especially widespread Asian tradition is the group of oral epics chronicling the achievements of Gesar, which are performed in many Turkic languages as well as in Mongolian; see Reichl 1992, 2000, 2003; Chao 1997.
7 On oral epic traditions across Africa, see, e.g., Johnson et al. 1997. On praise poetry from South Africa (chiefly Xhosa and Zulu), see Opland 1998, Kaschula 1995 and 2000, and Groenewald 2001. On African novels’ debt to indigenous OTs, see Obiechina 1992 and Balogun 1995. Of related interest in the special issue of Oral Tradition on African traditions, which includes research on OTs from all over the continent. A keyword search on “Africa” at the Oral Tradition website produces 80 downloadable articles. For a guide to African oral traditions of many different peoples, see Okpewho 1992.
8 On Australian Aboriginal song-maps, see Chatwin 1988; on the analogous phenomenon in a Native American context, Basso 1990. Of related interest is the special issue of Oral Tradition devoted to Native American traditions, which has been reprinted as Evers and Toelken 2001. A keyword search on “Native American” at the Oral Tradition website produces 99 downloadable articles.
9 On this contest poetry practiced in the Basque Country (parts of northern Spain and southern France), see Garzia et al. 2001, with a summary online. See also a report on the 2005 bertsolaritza national championships. On slam poetry, which originated in Chicago but has now spread internationally, see Foley 2002: 156-65, with eCompanion video of a performance by the poet Lynne Procope and links to relevant websites; Eleveld 2005, with audio CD; Glazner 2000; and the DVD Slam Nation (Devlin 2005).
11 On modern Chinese storytelling as an OT, see Bender 2003. More generally, see the special issue of Oral Tradition on minority OTs in China.
14 For an account of how the oral epic poet’s grandson learned about this performance and “attended” it online, see the Pathways Project node entitled “Leapfrogging the Text.”
15 More realistic perspectives on texts can be gained by asking what societies actually mean by “reading,” “literacy,” and “texts”—thus avoiding the trap of defaulting to twenty-first century Western definitions. Perhaps surprisingly, all of these terms vary significantly cross-culturally and are used to name dramatically different activities. See further Boyarin 1993 (on the ethnography of reading); Daniels and Bright 1996 and Houston 2004 (on the development and diversity of the world’s writing systems); Street 1993, 1995 (on “ideological” literacy); and Foley 2002: 58-78 (on contexts and reading).
16 In one sense an index represents a solution to the text’s absolute foreclosure on options. Because texts operate by strictly limiting readers’ activities to fixed sequences, they must resort to alternate strategies to enable out-of-order consultation of their contents.
17 Of course, OTs may be “privatized” by making them the exclusive province of specialists within a given culture, but variant individual performances and person-to-person transmission depend upon the pathways that texts lack. Likewise, IT routes may be limited by password protection, but once again networks of routes are themselves pathways rather than fixed sequences.
18 Intriguingly, oral epic singers from the Former Yugoslavia refer to the songs in their repertoires not via static title-labels but rather by citing oPathway markers, signs that mark a route, such as “When Djerdelez Alija attacked the Ban of Janok,” or “When Prince Marko fought Musa the Beheader.” IT sites are given nominal titles, but very often they amount to URLs (Amazon.com), or some abbreviation of the URL or ePathway (43 things). In both cases, the crucial instruction provided by the eSignal is not “what,” but rather “how to get there.”
20 This is not to deny that readers of texts also negotiate realities in partnership with the authors of texts, as contemporary literary theory has made very clear. It is simply to affirm that in IT (and OT) the negotiation between users and media involves not a static object but a system of potentials.
21 The three agoras are not meant to be taken as mutually exclusive, universalist situations, but rather as heuristics—concepts to think with. Daily experience in the twenty-first century, even in the wired West, may well involve multiple transactions in two or even all three agoras.
22 For interviews with oral epic singers on the nature of their “words,” see Foley 2002: 11-21. The same concept of “word” has been explicitly cited in oral traditions in ancient Greek (the term epos), Old English, Spanish, Basque, Mongolian (called a “mouth-word”), Finnish, Estonian, and Sardinian, although the phenomenon is certainly much more widespread.
23 The incongruities that naturally arise from trying to conduct purely textual exchange electronically may explain why readers of eBooks and similar utilities so often complain that they have trouble scrolling through lengthy documents on a computer display (whether Amazon’s Kindle helps resolve such incongruities remains to be seen). The eAgora supports interactive, participatory, emergent exploration extremely well, but it doesn’t handle textual exchange nearly as well as do texts. As Corey Doctorow put it in a 2004 talk, “New media don’t succeed because they’re like the old media, only better: they succeed because they’re worse than the old media at the stuff the old media are good at, and better at the stuff the old media are bad at.”
25 Caedmon is described by the seventh-century historian Bede as owing his ability to create OT poetry to an angel’s visit, while the “identity” of Cynewulf is based on non-matching coded signatures within four Anglo-Saxon poems: The Fates of the Apostles, Juliana, Elene, and Christ II.
26 Digital rights management (DRM) protocols, which represent a response to some of these problems, can only be successful to the degree that they address eAgora realities with eAgora (not tAgora) solutions. Witness the inefficacy of copy-protection software, often no more than an invitation to hacking—where such hacking amounts to assertion of eAgora “rights.” On the other hand, the Creative Commons initiative represents an eAgora solution to an eAgora problem. On the cultural and historical implications of eAgora realities, see especially Lessig 2004, 2006; and Tapscott and Williams 2006. See also the Pathways Project node on Agoraphobia.
27 The Pathways Project online will be entirely open to all users. Contributions (text, audio, video, etc.) will be welcomed within a space reserved for that purpose, although spam and commercial interventions will be categorically eliminated.
29 Of course, the Pathways Project—like its subjects OT and the web—will never really be complete, but always under construction. Once we shrug off the tAgora mentality, it becomes clear that the oAgora and eAgora are sites for continuous innovation and expansion, by individuals and by associated communities.
30 At full functionality the Pathways Project wiki will include a check-box option to allow the system to track and record surfers’ self-conducted tours through the network. If users so choose, their experiences will be chronicled in an archival subsection of the linkmaps menu. Thus the Project will remain under construction not only in terms of added content but also in terms of supplementary cognitive strategies.
31 As a fixed item, the book doesn’t permit the same kind of interaction and co-creation as are customary in the oAgora and eAgora. There simply is no ready mechanism—even in a book that morphs—to track readers’ idiosyncratic routes, and therefore no opportunity to add participant-itineraries to the Pathways Project archive of linkmaps.
32 Let me gratefully acknowledge the expert and creative assistance of Mark Jarvis, IT Manager at the University of Missouri’s Center for Studies in Oral Tradition and Center for eResearch, who built the animations for this article as well as consulted on everything from inchoate ideas to practical applications throughout its writing. I would also like to thank Jamie Stephens, former IT Manager, who constructed the architecture that supports the web version of our journal Oral Tradition, as well as our eCompanions and eEditions.