From Vincent Casaregola’s “The Text is Always Technology: Assessing New Technologies as Environments for Literacy” (TNT: Texts and Technologies. Ed. Janice R. Walker and Ollie O. Ovideo. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2003. 205-239.):

Taken together, the work of all three scholars, along with those they have influenced, might be described briefly in what I would call the “OHM Thesis” (indicating the first letters of each name, Ong, Havelock, and McLuhan). That thesis might be stated as follows: “technologies of representation, communication, and mediation, when adopted widely in any cultural setting, and maintained over at least a generation or two of use, begin to alter fundamentally the cultural epistemologies and discursive practices of that culture.”

I’ve been meaning to blog this for a long time as I refer to the OHM thesis from time to time. I don’t think the term’s gained much purchase, but it’s ingrained for me. Vince introduced me to Ong as rhetorician and his wife, Vicki, physically introduced me to Fr. Ong himself.1 I’ve heard the OHM thesis referred to in class, heard it used in discussion, and was asked to write about it in my comprehensive exams. Often, when I use the adjective “Ongian,” I’m really referring to the OHM thesis, which is a better term because it acknowledges the role McLuhan and Havelock play in the idea.

  1. It was at the department picnic a few weeks into my first semester at SLU and she noticed me looking over at a smallish, elderly Jesuit who I strongly suspected to be Ong. “Would you like to meet Fr. Ong?” she asked. I nodded or said yes or something. “You don’t need to be nervous,” she said, “He’s really friendly. I’ll introduce you.” I don’t remember much about that first meeting, except that I told him that I was from Colorado and he told me he’d taught at Regis in Denver and really enjoyed his stays at a Jesuit retreat house in the mountains west of Denver (which may or may not be the Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia). Over the years, he didn’t always remember my name (he was about 85 when I first met him), but he would always say “I know you, you’re from Colorado.” []