This study analyzes the phenomenon of digital voice search queries against the background of the fluid and changing balance in the orality–literacy osmosis of different historical eras. In attempting to theoretically conceptualize the unique oral characteristics of this new digital feature, this article argues that as the result of technological considerations, voice querying manifests an attempt to discipline oral words – to pronounce them while thinking of their written form. The article also considers the oxymoron of ‘looking up’ information through spoken words; the effect of an interface that stresses the use of the oral words as an event; the devocalization of queries, as they transform into a written form; and the implications of browsing the Internet through oral word searches, especially for young children. It concludes that the integration of these oral features can be explained by the affordances of digital media on the one hand and the ‘revival’ of intuitive preprint features attempting to ease the cognitive demands of print culture on the other hand.
- Ong W