Dino-Technological Narratives in Children's Literature

Walter J. Ong, in his Orality and Literacy: The Technologizin of the World, emphasizes that the transformative side of technology on human thinking has already been realized through the invention of letters.

Walter J. Ong, in his Orality and Literacy: The Technologizin of the World, emphasizes that the transformative side of technology on human thinking has already been realized through the invention of letters. Because "literary mind without writing does not work ot only in writing but also in verbal expression of mind, contrary to how it does work at the moment. Writing is the most unique invention that changes human consciousness". Thus, the writing, after its invention, has established a language or "autonomous" discourse which is described as "independent" within the verbal culture. This discourse is "a discourse that can not be questioned as it is in speech, because it is kept independent of the author" (p. 97). In other words, verbal culture-being translated into words written or verbal-has "carried words from thw world of voices into a visual space" (p. 146), "reinforcing self-sense" and "raising awareness" (p. 209). Technological progress is no more than a factor contributing to its formation in the era Ong calls as the "secondary oral culture age".

According to Ong, the culture emerged only in the oral version of the communication is the primary oral culture. There has been a cognitive change in oral culture after the invention of letters, but this change does not cause the "verbal" character to disappear. Because "reading a text is turning it into a sound -whether by loud, silent, spelling out one by one, or reading fast and cursive as in the case high-technology cultures. The writing can never be far from being verbal"(p. 20). Indeed, "the electronic age is the secondary oral culture age: The age of orality whose existenceis based on writing and printing techniques "(p. 15). For this reason, all the transformations that take place after the invention of writing actually influence the forms of verbalization of orality. Hence, it is possible to use the phrase "verbalized discourse" if it is the writing of the technology in question. However, in today's world where technology is internalized, it is also necessary to mention about the technology of writing. Referring to Ong's "digitized discourse" at this point, we can examine the rhetoric that can be seen in different circles and which is constantly renewed under the influence of the technological progress that we can think of as rewriting.

Today, we are in a period of internalization of digital writing. At this point, children's literature is digitized because it addresses the children -the children born to these cultures- of the parents who have internalized the technology. The process of internalization of the digital discourse in the children of the Z generation, even in their infants, is observed in connection with this transformation. In this article I will examine the interaction of children's literature with technology in two different categories, inspired by the distinction I have mentioned about. For this reason, examples of technological dinosaur narrative will be considered under the heading "the technology of writing"; As a narrative corresponding to the "digitized discourse" that I think Ong finds the opposite of the phrase "oralized discourse", I will evaluate narrative examples that take the subject of dinosaurs under the heading "writing the technology".


The Technology of Writing: Examples of Technological Dinosaur Narrative

Barry Sanders says in his book A Is for Ox: The Collapse of Literacy and the Rise of Violence in an Electronic Age that human is the product of literacy, and it speaks of its direct effect on the development of self (p. 10). Because "literacy is a relationship and a structure; It is a dynamic system that human beings internalize and transfer to the experiences they have. The success of any one person in verbalism will also be decisive in 'adopting' literacy. The way to literacy lies in the first letters of a newborn baby, in his breathing process. The human voice shows the way of the written culture with a scream"(p. 11). If we recall Ong here, literacy as an identity is gained when writing is internalized, that is, when verbal culture is spoken. "Because the two categories of verbalism and literacy are not completely separate from each other. Both are based on sounds and meanings. They both try to tell something. (...)  literacy is fed by through verbalism"(p. 44). Therefore, there is a direct relationship between the acquisition of literacy as an identity and the development of the self in the process of cultural transition from oral to written culture. At this point, children who listen to a tale or a story book that someone reads out is in interaction with the secondary oral culture, which is usually included in the transition to literacy. Of course, it is arguable that the book being read is illustrated; but if the book is read or animated in some way, it will strengthen the relationship  that the child usually establishes with verbalism, and raise his attention. In this respect, the pictures of the book may function as the world of meaning created by the hieroglyphics in the child's consciousness. Thus, for children who have not yet met the alphabet, studying the pictures of the book begins to evolve into an phenomenon that opens the door to eternal thinking. This is the verbalism both Sanders and Ong pointed out.

"A rich experience of verbalism is an indispensable beginning for literacy. The verbalism is a  scene of rehearsal and of a safe haven where a child can develop his imagination without fear of being judged or condemned"(Sanders, 22-23). However, it seems that safe haven is disappearing for children who are raised under the influence of technological tools today. Thus, according to Sanders, "literacy is under the attack by both modern education methods and modern forms of communication. We need to be able to examine the consequences of this paradox, which requires consdering the forms of electronic communication."(p. 134). It is because that the ways individuals perceive -that can be thought of as the first technological change in the past, as indicated by Ong- in the reception of technology that started with computers and presently continuing through technological tools like smartphone, smart board and iPads, have been changing and transformed with the invention of the letters. In this transformation the internalization of narrative should take place through digital discourse. The life-enhancing technology that Ong mentiones about is only possible with this internalization (102). There are "The Animated Books" and technological books, which are an interactive game option in the children's literature market that are thought to address the Z generation. Instead of contributing to the formation of the self by sopporting the cognitive intelligence of the addressee, these books only "reinforce the sense of excitement". Therefore, in the age of digital technology as in the electronic age "we need a radical redefinition of the literacy that would include the important role played by verbalism in shaping the literacy". Moreover, "we should re-determine what a literary society looks like after giving up reading book which is its primary metaphor (p. 137). Here, as in the case of Who stole the Moon? whose interactive e-book version is available as an application, we should disscuss what would happen when such inventions that we can entitle as technological writings "substitute the book, the primary metaphor, which is used in visualizing the self" (p. 137). Because in the experience of technological writing, the technology itself replaces the narrative.

Although the concept of digital narration has come to the fore as a qualitative development in the recent period with the transfer of the literary to the digital space, it is like the "Animated Books" series published by Arpa Publishing that are animated, audible, 3D glasses gift books outperforming the narrator and giving more than the three dimensions of the painting when the subject is children's literature. Because the book options that the figures on the book are displayed on, that the verbal is substituted by the visual, that the only way to enhance the individual's self is the emotional computer game simulations with CDs, or that the necessary application is downloaded to the tablet after painting, are more popular than the digital narrative examples on the children's bookshelves. "Dinosaurs are Living", which is published with the slogan on the cover "Attention! The book may bite you out" and published by Altın Kitaplar Publishers, is just one of these examples. In the introduction to this book, which is sold with the "program download disk", the reader is first informed about the virtual reality with the short question answers: "What is virtual reality? The virtual reality (VR) program is to mix the real and the virtual worlds. Thus, the camera of your computer animates books with three-dimensional animations". Later, the reader is told that the book revived the dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus and Stegosarus, who lived in the prehistoric period, and showed them how to resurrect these dinosaurs using computer application. A similar example is also found in the book "Jurassic World: The Place Where Dinosaurs Live" published by İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları. This book, which includes "virtual surfing with pictures from the movie", should be read by "downloading the free application" and "reviving the five dinosaurs from Jurassic World in real dimensions". Therefore, the reader is confronted with a book that contains the activation pages, which are far from verbal narrative and that is preceded by action. On the other hand, the five dinosaurs are presented with a narrative like a gladiator fight in the arena: "The easiest dinosaurs to see in the Gyrosphere Valley full of impressive beauty, of course, are the thorny stars of the show- Stegosaurus"; "Ready to Defend" and "The Expert of Survivor". Thus, these types of examples fall far from the way in which Ong regards important in writing in the experience of technologicalization of writing.

According to Ong, "books began to be perceived as an object containing scientific, fictitious, etc. knowledge" (149-50), after being largely internalization of the printing press, not that is seen as a recorded words as it was in the beginning. This change only affected our way of perceiving. Therefore, the contact of writing with technology is valuable as long as the narrative is internalized, that is, it can be addressed to the self, and can be thought upon. In this respect, "electronic means do not destroy printed books, on the contrary, increase the number of books" (160). Because the reading practices realized through technology in the process of development of the literary identity are actually manifestations of "conscious planning of our group consciousness." At this point consensus on meaning takes place in the "world village" scale, transcending the local consensus by the influence of globalization (161).[1] For this reason, the existence of such samples on bookshelves of children’s literature is a product of a period in which the digital narrative is perceived as an object containing information. For these books, having the quality to raise the consciousness level as pointed out by Ong can be achieved by the examples in which the discourse is digitized.


Writing the Technology: Digitization of Discourse in Children’s Literature

In the case of technology of writing, change, which can raise human consciousness, was made through "verbalized discourse". In other words, this discourse, which created the opportunity for the reader to stand alone with his inner voice and to think about the things they read, led to the internalization of information and technology. For this reason, according to Ong, as long as we experience the transformation that occur with the progress of the technology in a way that we experienced it in the invention of writing; the change, which is inevitable, will be in our perception of knowledge, not in the quality of information. It is also important that the discussion of digital narratives will affect the writing of technology in the field of narratives. This process must continue in a way that can be transformed into the experience of the internalization of digitalization as it is experienced in the internalization of speech. Indeed, it is possible to encounter the texts, which show and advocate the transformation of digital discourse in the children's literature. Camping with Brachiosaurus and Journey to the Age of Dinosaurs are the good examples of children’s literature that the digital is stated in the content and support the aforementioned cognitive development in children's literary texts.[2]

Dörtgöz Publications' "Dinosaurs Series" is about the adventures of two sisters in school age, Melek and İlke. Camping with Brachiosaurus is also part of this adventure series. The narrative begins with the discussion between the main characters, Melek and İlke. They would go to camp as they do every year, but they missed the bus when İlke goes back to home in the last minute to take her tablet to use it in the tour. İlke tries to make Melek calm by saying "Forget about the bus. I will find a great way to join the journey. "(2). “She enters some codes to her laptop" and scans “Brachiosaurus from the collection of dinosaurs” (4). The toy comes to life and becomes a giant. He jumps out of the open window and reaches its actual size as in pre-historical times. The siblings jump Brachiosaurus’ back, which is the "longest stairway in the world" (4). As children pass through the streets of the city together with their dinosaurs, they discover from their point how small everything is. At this point, the children realizes how tall Brachiosaurus is. Similarly, the fact that İlke and Melek arrive to the camping faster than the bus –since the steps of the dinosaurs are extremely big–, this detail allows the readers to gain a different perspective on the concept of speed.

When these two come to the camp site, they meet with the angry look of their teachers. It is clear that the teachers do not allow dinosaurs at the camp site: "Send Braçi back immediately and you two leave the camp!" (11). This attitude does not change even when children say, "but we cannot leave it alone": "If so, you both have to go from here!" (11). Thus, İlke and Melek left the camp as children who are dismissed from the class due to a tiny fault. But İlke does not give up and reveals her characteristic with a creative idea as she gives life to Braçi. She says: "Wait. We can camp on our own. It will be fun. We can go home early. Let's make it fun this weekend "(12). With the help of the dinosaurs, they set up tents and burn campfires. Meanwhile, they learn that Brachiosaurus is not a carnivorous dinosaur. Because Braçi refused to eat the meat and said, "No! I am literally a graminivorous. I like to eat the leaves of the long trees "(15). When it's morning, all the curious kids in the camp are gathered around Braçi. They rise to the top of the mountain; they use his long body as a slide ... (19). The teachers get again angry when they encounter this situation (19). Only then a cry for help is heart. A child is "trapped in the ground" and "a wolf is next to him." (20). After seeing the event, Braci roars such loudly that "the wolf departed like a good dog" (20). The Braçi -because he is graminivorous- pulls the child out of the crack with his "unsharp teeth". So, everyone becomes happy. Teachers also gave up their prejudiced attitude: "Braçi, thank you for all your help today! Melek and İlke, it seems that you have the best animal in the world"(23). Therefore, the model of teacher in the current education system is criticized in the narrative through the attitude of the teachers. When they return home, İlke wants to hide Braçi before her family comes back from the weekend vacation and writes the codes immediately to the laptop. She scans the dinosaur and turns it into a toy. The narrative ends with the two sisters sleeping peacefully (24). In this work, internalization of the technology by the characters is important in terms of establishing the digital discourse. Again, the creation of such characters in children's literature is important for facilitating the identification with characters by children, who have already internalized technology with the characters such as Z generation. It also contributes to the process of gaining literacy as an identity.

Similarly, Trip to the Age of Dinosaurs published by Turkiye İş Bankası Publications takes two brother’s, Ali and Ömer's, adventure in the amusement park as the subject matter. Ali "loves dinosaurs to distraction" and does not separate the "Sarıl-o-saurus" from his side. He is more excited than his brother Ömer. When they run at the amusement park, they come across a vehicle, which resembles a "strange space ship" in an "ellipse" shape. This vehicle has "upward opening gate" and has signboard, written "Make a Journey to History" on it. They enter into the car with curiosity. There is "a very old but friendly man on the big screen" inside. In this way, the narrative is moved to a technological atmosphere that gives the impression of the 5D cinema. At this point, the space becomes a simulative one that is depicted in words rather than being carried on a digital platform by means of programs downloaded to tablets or smartphones as we have seen in the examples of technology of writing. The digital narrator on the screen tells children to get ready travelling to history and asks them where they want to go. The story begins with this event and the simulative space is activated when Ali cried: "I want to go to the age of dinosaurs". The children tie their belts, the time machine vibrates, rises from the ground, and roars by starting to fly. When the vehicle stops, the children find themselves in a "jungle full of colorful tropical flowers". There are dinosaurs around them, "dinosaurs which are living, walking, eating, roaring and looking at visitors" ...

First they see a "Diplodocus". Then the ground begins to shake: T-Rex is coming. Since it is a dangerous and carnivorous dinosaur, an exciting adventure begins for children, and they hide in a narrow passage that T-rex cannot enter. At the end of the passage, there is a lake. But there are also wild dinosaurs in this place. Eventually, the children who meet with the stregosaurus, take the eggs of these dinosaurs with the aim of protection with the guidance of the dinosaurs and go back to the time machine. When they return to their home, even themselves cannot believe in this impossible journey. On the other hand, dinosaur eggs are with them as the evidence. Children, who have experienced after their journey that nothing is impossible and they witness their eggs cracking after a few days. The narrative ends with Ali and Ömer bringing their stegosaurus pups to the “Bring Your Pet to School" day in the school. The narrator also emphasizes that the eggs, which the children brought, are effective innovation that will "change the history of the 21st century". With this narrative, it is also possible for the child reader to experience the technology together with the scientific exploration. Moreover, the narrator forms this story by creating a feeling of a simulated space resembling the 5D cinema system and bridging the present time and the past narrative by the exploration of dinosaur eggs. The child reader, -since he/she will try to understand the topic cognitively- will have the opportunity of contributing to the formation of his self, as pointed out by Ong, as well as having the opportunity of experiencing the internalization, which supports the transition to the identity of being literate. Narration also contributes to the formation of digital discourse.



The narrative begins with the invention of the interaction with technology. As a result of this interaction, writing is internalized and oral culture is spoken. In other words, there is a social written cultural experience when the words are spoken through the alphabet. This new experience contributes to the development of human cognitive level and self. According to Walter Ong, culture formed after writing is a secondary oral culture. Because, in the experience of reading, oral culture is the one in which the individual is in dialogue with his own internal voice.

Today, the experience of new communication tools such as smartphones and tablets is reflected in the narrative level. The writing the technology discussed in this article through children’s literature and the technology of writing show different aspects of the narrative reflection of the digitized discourse. The experience that can feed the cognitive level of the individual pointed out by Ong and provide him in literacy as an identity is possible with the digital verbalization. This verbalization can be realized by writing the technology and the digitized discourse. Interaction with technology at this point does not destroy the book, but rather increases the printed ones.

Another characteristic of children's literature is that it makes it possible to see the intersection of oral and written cultures in the interaction of the illiterate child with book. At this stage, children's literature plays an important role in reinforcing the transition process to the internalization of oral culture and literacy as an identity; the orientation of the technological books reflecting the writing of extraordinary technology will contribute to the internalization of this discourse and the formation of its own literacy as identities.



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Tullet, Herve, Binbir Oyun. İstanbul: Timaş Çocuk, 2014.

Would, Stratton Helen. Ay’ı Kim Çaldı?. Çev. Derya Çebi. İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2012.     

[1] At this point Barry Sanders shows his pessimism through the example of America: "The vast majority of children, now, hear human voice through television, cinema, and radio: thanks to the magic of these wonderful electronic devices, the last two or three generations preferred electrical signals instead of real life" (45). This preference, according to Sanders, has led to a transformation in American society that distracts young people from the literacy as an identity and wipes the human voice out in reading action.

[2] Hervé Tullet's Press Here, also translated into Turkish, is an interesting example of the touch feature of tablets that is provided in a printed book with only the power of words and pictures. However, I chose to examine two books in this article because both of them are complementary to the examples in the technology of writing part. Also they can be considered as a kind of hybridization of advanced technology with the extinct dinosaurs.