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Folk Culture in the Digital Age

The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction

Trevor J. Blank

Publication Year: 2012

Smart phones, tablets, Facebook, Twitter, and wireless Internet connections are the latest technologies to have become entrenched in our culture.  Although traditionalists have argued that computer-mediated communication and cyberspace are incongruent with the study of folklore, Trevor J. Blank sees the digital world as fully capable of generating, transmitting, performing, and archiving vernacular culture. Folklore in the Digital Age documents the emergent cultural scenes and expressive folkloric communications made possible by digital “new media” technologies.

New media is changing the ways in which people learn, share, participate, and engage with others as they adopt technologies to complement and supplement traditional means of vernacular expression. But behavioral and structural overlap in many folkloric forms exists between on- and offline, and emerging patterns in digital rhetoric mimic the dynamics of previously documented folkloric forms, invoking familiar social or behavior customs, linguistic inflections, and symbolic gestures.

Folklore in the Digital Age provides insights and perspectives on the myriad ways in which folk culture manifests in the digital age and contributes to our greater understanding of vernacular expression in our ever-changing technological world.

Published by: Utah State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to work with the fantastic contributors of this volume, whose professionalism and dedication made my experience as an editor so incredibly fulfilling and enjoyable. In addition to the contributors, I wish to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone at Utah State University Press for their reliable enthusiasm and...

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Brief Word on QR Codes

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pp. xi

QR codes are small, square barcodes that contain embedded information, such as a website, an e-mail address, or a phone number, among other possibilities. When scanned by a smartphone, tablet, or other capable computer device, QR codes can instantly transfer a reader directly to a website or a video clip on their device. Throughout the course of this volume, you...

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Introduction: Pattern in the Virtual Folk Culture of Computer-Mediated Communication

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pp. 1-24

When historian Henry Adams stepped into the Paris Exhibition of 1900, a twirling, whizzing, bedazzling machine caught his eye.1 Enamored with this “God-like creature” (in his words), Adams felt overwhelmed by the looming profundity of technology and its implications for the future. Later, in his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams (1918), he recollects...

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1. How Counterculture Helped Put the “Vernacular” in Vernacular Webs

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pp. 25-45

In 1964 students converged on the University of California’s Sproul Hall. Protesting new policies that radically limited political speech on campus, some of these students wore punch cards, used to input data into the era’s computers, around their necks. One protestor had a sign suggesting computers were a mechanism of oppressive institutional power: “I am a UC...

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2. Netizens, Revolutionaries, and the Inalienable Right to the Internet

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pp. 46-59

On January 25, 2011, protestors took to the streets of Egypt, demanding democracy and a change in regime. An election held in November 2010 was largely denounced as a sham. The 82-year-old leader and thirty-year autocrat, Hosni Mubarak, quickly moved to shut down the Internet in an effort to counter user-generated social networking sites such as Twitter...

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3. Performance 2.0: Observations toward a Theory of the Digital Performance of Folklore

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pp. 60-84

A few years ago, I visited “Sean,” an old college friend, in San Francisco.2 As we sat in his apartment catching up, our conversation turned toward a mutual acquaintance, “Jake,” whom neither of us had seen in some time. When I relayed what information I had about recent happenings in Jake’s life, Sean conjectured, “So I guess you keep in pretty good touch with...

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4. Real Virtuality: Enhancing Locality by Enacting the Small World Theory

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pp. 85-97

The text message arrives on Monday: “Pillow fight mob, Saturday, 11:45 a.m., Union Square.” The message is forwarded to friends, posted to Facebook, picked up by a popular blog, and forwarded again. By the time Saturday morning rolls around, close to 5,000 people are casually converging on Union Square in New York City, pillows hidden under jackets or...

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5. Jokes on the Internet: Listing toward Lists

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pp. 98-118

When confronting the issue of humorous folklore on the Internet, certain questions necessarily arise. What part of humor is folklore? What constitutes folklore on the Internet? When does humor on the Internet become the concern of the folklorist? After all, not all humor is considered folklore. Most folklorists would not regard a spontaneous witticism made in the course...

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6. The Jewish Joke Online: Framing and Symbolizing Humor in Analog and Digital Culture

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pp. 119-149

As the personal computer began replacing the typewriter on office desktops during the 1980s, folklorist Paul Smith (1991) reported that workers delighted in the new machine’s capacity to enable unofficial, playful activity that he called folkloric. Although he sensed that many colleagues wedded to definitions of folklore around face-to-face oral transmission...

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7. From Oral Tradition to Cyberspace: Tapeworm Diet Rumors and Legends

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pp. 150-165

Twenty-first century Americans live in a complex, fast-moving society. With free-flowing information from the Internet, television, and radio, it can be difficult for people to distinguish fact from fiction. At times of crisis, rumors and legends articulate borderlines between safety and danger, health and illness, and boredom and excitement. Sociologist Tamotsu...

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8. Love and War and Anime Art: An Ethnographic Look at a Virtual Community of Collectors

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pp. 166-211

The concept of folk groups has been central to academic folkloristics for many years. Originally, such groups were assumed to be illiterate, preliterate, or simply not as literate as the academic elite who studied them.1 Alan Dundes boldly challenged this stereotype in 1965, declaring that “folk groups” could be “any group of people whatsoever,” so long as they shared...

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9. Face-to-Face with the Digital Folk: The Ethics of Fieldwork on Facebook

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pp. 212-232

What sets us apart as folklorists from other researchers is that we stand shoulder to shoulder with the people we study (see Ben-Amos 1973b; Dorson 1972, 5–7). Through firsthand fieldwork, with courageous and patient participant observation and naturalistic observation, folklore scholars have stood out in the academic world by respecting and prioritizing the...


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pp. 233-255

About the Contributors

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pp. 257-260


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pp. 261-262

E-ISBN-13: 9780874218909
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874218893

Page Count: 220
Publication Year: 2012