The Broken Telephone Effect

Posted: November 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


In this weeks reading we learned about Lynn Abrams “Oral History Theory”. Abrams discussed the fact that oral history is quiet different from any other source. We can not mistake oral testimonies the same as written because as he describes we receive this message as an “undistorted narrative transmitted through a conduit”. Sort of like the game broken telephone. Where one sentence is told to on person and it goes through one by one whispered around the circle and back to the original person who said it. You will find the sentence is broken or changed in some way. Abrams is saying that we cant go based apon a oral history because we have no proof what was said and who said it. Orality is easy to create yet almost impossible to record. At least centuries ago. However now we have voice recordings and what not we have come a long way from what we had. An oral history could be possible from now on but to go based apon he said she said from before could not provide any evidence.
Protelli looks at oral history as a “unfinished nature of work in progress”, this is because for any given event there were witnesses and there are no boundaries to who can be interviewed. This is tied into mutability, which is the molding of a oral story and turning it into a primary source by writing it down. By documenting a interview this brings it closer to becoming a primary source. We can never prove what has been said unless we document it.
The readings also talked about collaborations in which a interviewer is the historian who in creates the interview and makes the questions and can then create a source or final product.
In modern day it is kind of like a news broadcast or radio blog where people are creating a initial primary source to news or big events. It is creating an oral history of what is taking place at that time. In recording it we are able to hear what that person said and when they said it. Now that we can record things we do not need to document it on paper because we can record and replay exactly what that person said.

I have found a perfect picture to summarize what I am saying, there is a picture of a man pretending to interview a statue. This is like what im saying, before we had this kind of technology we could not record what people said and the only way oral history was recorded before was if we wrote it down but if we did not we could not take the facts as proof unless we asked that person themselves, who are dead. So this picture summarizes that perfectly



Lynn Abrams, Oral History Theory (Abingdon: Routledge , 2010)

Brabazon, T. (2011). Welcome to Introduction to Communication. Retrieved from UOIT Web CT:


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