Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World

Blank, Trevor J., ed. Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World. Logan, UT, Utah State University Press, 2009. p.272. $24.95pb or free .pdf at http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/usupress_pubs/

Monica Foote
Indiana University

If folklore is a form of artistically heightened communication, then it must necessarily arise in the course of most forms of human interaction. How these interactions are mediated changes over time, and the most recent seismic shift in how we mediate our communicative world has been the shift towards interaction in the space of distant co-presence that has been created by the advent of the Internet. On message boards, in social media, in email attachments and on Wikipedia, folklore is everywhere. Online communities develop their own modes of communication and methods of producing knowledge, along with verbal and visual art, that mark them as a community and heighten the discourse and practices with which they engage.
Scholarly attention has only lately been turning towards this type of folkloric production, but offline forms of folklore that also occur online are becoming seen as legitimate expressions of culture rather than as pale copies of real cultural work going on elsewhere. Folklore that is ‘born-digital’, as one could say, is also being increasingly recognized. Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World does the important work of discussing how folklorists have dealt with technological shifts in the past, and how we can thus accommodate this shift, establishing the Internet as a field site like any other. Continue reading “Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World”

McMeaning in the Maw of the Masses: Analyzing Fast Food Mash-Ups

McMeaning in the Maw of the Masses: Analyzing Fast Food Mash-Ups

Meagan Winkelman
Ohio State University

This paper analyzes the foodways of teenagers in the digital age, specifically the construction of “fast food mash-ups.” These practices, unlike typically documented ethnographic foodways, do not involve cookery; rather they involve the reappropriation of readily available fast food items. The results are massive hybrid sandwiches, like the “McGangBang,” a McDonald’s McChicken sandwich inside of a double cheeseburger. Using interviews with past and present members of the folk group that engages in these practices, collected online and in person, I will explore the meaning of these reappropriations to the people who make and consume them. This paper focuses on the social and psychological factors that influence fast food mash-ups, including the rite of passage ritual of consumption in excess, the desire to deviate from cultural and institutional norms, and the struggle to create meaning in the mass-produced food and drink that dominate youth food culture, as well as the function of fast food mash-ups as legends, which are being acted on ostensively whenever the sandwiches are ordered, constructed or consumed. Continue reading “McMeaning in the Maw of the Masses: Analyzing Fast Food Mash-Ups”

Beneath the Outrage: 2009 Task Force Recommendations Undermine Online Breast Cancer Community

Beneath the Outrage: 2009 Task Force Recommendations Undermine Online Breast Cancer Community

Christal Seahorn
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Abstract:
In November of 2009, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) released medical recommendations suggesting a significant reduction in the use of mammography and self exams in breast cancer diagnosis. This paper examines forum threads from the Susan G. Komen message board that captures the immediate outrage and confusion of a group of breast cancer survivors. Analyzing this online communication reveals the ways in which the USPSTF announcement threatened the community’s trusted rituals, traditions and belief systems and aims to bring the unique values of the breast cancer community into a larger academic awareness. This study demonstrates how the mishandling of the 2009 announcement highlights the importance of moving beyond strictly scientific methodology to a greater use of applied folklore and ethnographic analysis to better respect the unique needs of patient groups.

  Continue reading “Beneath the Outrage: 2009 Task Force Recommendations Undermine Online Breast Cancer Community”

Heroes Are Over With: Possibilities for Folk Hybridity in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”

Heroes Are Over With: Possibilities for Folk Hybridity in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Katie L. Ramos
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Abstract:

Folklorists have long sought to illuminate the blurry boundary between contemporary popular culture and folk culture, and in the information age that boundary is fuzzier than ever.  The internet provides tools for the folk to produce creative works and disseminate them widely while remaining mostly anonymous.  These tools have also allowed greater interaction between producers of popular media and their fan (folk) base.  Camille Bacon-Smith and Henry Jenkins have identified a “participatory culture” in which fans produce their own creative works (on and offline) in response to popular film and television.  The more recent phenomenon of internet-based high-budget programming has led to an even greater level of interaction between media producers and their fans.  One example is Joss Whedon’s 2008 web production Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  Whedon was known for friendly interaction with his fans, but when he developed Dr. Horrible he encouraged them to engage actively in creative play with the musical, partly through a contest that asked viewers to create their own video responses to the musical.  The ten best were included on the DVD release.  This paper examines how the producers and fans of Dr. Horrible entered into a (lopsided) reciprocal performance, inventing and re-inventing a shared, creative event. Continue reading “Heroes Are Over With: Possibilities for Folk Hybridity in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog””