In this short essay, I argue that the ephemeral nature of emerging instant-messaging applications, such as Snapchat, applies an oral paradigm. While online discourse of computer-mediated communication shares many qualities with oral communication, the case of ephemeral applications is unique, as the oral features are already integrated in the application technology design and as orality is often implemented on highly visual products. Snapchat applies technology that fades visual contents as if they were spoken words fading in the air after utterance. Moreover, Snapchat’s promise to delete all messages from its database after they are viewed echoes a key characteristic of primary oral culture: that is, the inability (and in our case, the obligation not) to store knowledge. In this, Snapchat demonstrates counter-logic to the contemporary grammar of new media, which is based on information aggregation.
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