Folk Culture in the Digital Age: The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction

Folk Culture in the Digital Age: The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction

Folk Culture in the Digital Age: The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction

Folk Culture in the Digital Age: The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction


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.


Trevor J. Blank

WHEN HISTORIAN HENRY ADAMS STEPPED INTO THE PARIS Exhibition of 1900, a twirling, whizzing, bedazzling machine caught his eye. 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 this moment and notes that the machine—“the dynamo”—appears to serve as a symbol for man’s replacement of religion with technology. For Adams, the implication of this symbolic displacement was that man now worships machine; thus, people will henceforth stop at nothing to ensure the forward progress of technological innovation. Considering the context of Adams’s time, a period of rapid labor mobilization and industrialization, he boldly predicts that someday man will serve machine.

It would be an understatement today to suggest that Henry Adams was correct in his prescient hypothesis. Indeed, one cannot enter a crowded movie theater, mall, or local teen hotspot (among numerous other places) in the United States without seeing technological minions devoutly using their cell phones or smartphones with mindboggling speed and dexterity as they text message others, play games, read and reply to e-mail, and/or sign into their profile on a social networking site. Throughout the country, it is fairly common to encounter an individual carrying on a hands-free phone conversation through the use of a Bluetooth headset, located inconspicuously in one ear—which occasionally gives others in the user’s proximity the false impression that they are talking to themselves! Meanwhile, the . . .

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