Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Folklore and the Internet

Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World

Edited by Trevor J. Blank
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 260
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Folklore and the Internet
    Book Description:

    A pioneering examination of the folkloric qualities of the World Wide Web, e-mail, and related digital media. These stuidies show that folk culture, sustained by a new and evolving vernacular, has been a key, since the Internet's beginnings, to language, practice, and interaction online. Users of many sorts continue to develop the Internet as a significant medium for generating, transmitting, documenting, and preserving folklore. In a set of new, insightful essays, contributors Trevor J. Blank, Simon J. Bronner, Robert Dobler, Russell Frank, Gregory Hansen, Robert Glenn Howard, Lynne S. McNeill, Elizabeth Tucker, and William Westerman showcase ways the Internet both shapes and is shaped by folklore

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-751-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction Toward a Conceptual Framework for the Study of Folklore and the Internet
    (pp. 1-20)
    Trevor J. Blank

    In his essay “Toward a Definition of Folklore in Context,” Dan Ben-Amos asserts: “If the initial assumption of folklore research is based on the disappearance of its subject matter, there is no way to prevent the science from following the same road” (1971, 14). In similar fashion, Alan Dundes began his presidential plenary address to the American Folklore Society in 2004 with a grim outlook on the future of the discipline by contending that the “state of folkloristics at the beginning of the twenty-first century is depressingly worrisome” (2005, 385). Such alarm-sounding statements merit our attention, but the fact remains...

  2. Chapter 1 Digitizing and Virtualizing Folklore
    (pp. 21-66)
    Simon J. Bronner

    One popular sense of tradition signals a human, even naturalistic connection. In this view, tradition is down home, out in the fields, back in the woods, where socializing, ritualizing, and storytelling occur unencumbered by machines or corporations. Hearing tradition uttered often raises images of family huddled around the dinner table at holidays or the neighborhood gang getting together for play, and it might be imaginatively set in opposition to the socially alienating quality of modernity dominated by technology. The rhetoric of tradition cited in folkloristic annals is not that far off from these characterizations, although it may broaden to a...

  3. Chapter 2 Guardians of the Living: Characterization of Missing Women on the Internet
    (pp. 67-79)
    Elizabeth Tucker

    As Richard A. Lanham suggests in The Electronic Word, the World Wide Web facilitates information-sharing that is both fluid and democratic (1993, 106). One important kind of information-sharing occurs on websites devoted to women who have disappeared, probably because of violent death. Since the Internet became popular in the early 1990s, it has served as a locus for predation and consolation, as well as expressions of confusion and resolution. The Internet theorist Sherry Turkle explains that all of us who spend time on the World Wide Web become “dwellers on the threshold between the real and the virtual, unsure of...

  4. Chapter 3 The End of the Internet: A Folk Response to the Provision of Infinite Choice
    (pp. 80-97)
    Lynne S. McNeill

    I was working in the kitchen with my husband one night, preparing a dish of deviled eggs to bring to a dinner party, when I was first struck by just how much influence digital culture has over our daily lives. As a household we are, of course, as wired-in as many people are these days—we communicate via e-mail and text message on a daily basis, and we use the Internet to plan our trips, buy gifts, and arrange our schedules—but this was something more, something deeper. My husband was carrying a plate of boiled eggs from one counter...

  5. Chapter 4 The Forward as Folklore: Studying E-Mailed Humor
    (pp. 98-122)
    Russell Frank

    On Sunday afternoon, 12 February 2006, I checked the New York Times website, as has been my custom since 9/11, to see if anything horrendous had happened since the morning papers arrived on my doorstep. The breaking news was that Vice President Dick Cheney had accidentally shot a quail-hunting buddy in Texas (Kornblut 2006).

    The timing of the story was remarkable for me personally. The day before the shooting I had asked a friend to help me collect topical folklore, which I refer to as newslore (Frank 2004), by asking his friends to send me any e-mailed items they received....

  6. Chapter 5 Epistemology, the Sociology of Knowledge, and the Wikipedia Userbox Controversy
    (pp. 123-158)
    William Westerman

    All knowledge is folk knowledge. Whether we are concerned with the scientific findings by a Nobel laureate published in an academic journal, the report of the destructive power of a hurricane reported in a local newspaper, gossip about a neighbor spread via the rumor mill, or a local legend, all knowledge is produced within the communication conventions of a particular community and disseminated in ways that are acceptable or trustworthy to a degree held customary by that same group. The Nobel laureate is published through a process of peerreview, a form of group approval, and speaks to other specialists who...

  7. Chapter 6 Crusading on the Vernacular Web: The Folk Beliefs and Practices of Online Spiritual Warfare
    (pp. 159-174)
    Robert Glenn Howard

    Amateur website builders and evangelists “Dean” and “Susan” of Hillsboro, Oregon, believe that directly palpable, evil, spiritual entities act in the world today. They describe seeing strange eyes, white fogs, and dark shapes, hearing loud breathing, and even feeling sudden changes in temperature. While these are common elements in folk tradition (Ellis 2000), Dean and Susan place these experiences into their conservative evangelical Christian worldview. Compelled by a radical certainty imparted by these experiences, they participate in an online vernacular web of communication with others who share this certainty (Howard 2008a, 2008b). In this vernacular web, communicating about their direct...

  8. Chapter 7 Ghosts in the Machine: Mourning the MySpace Dead
    (pp. 175-193)
    Robert Dobler

    Social networking websites like have exploded in popularity over the last few years.¹ Teenagers use the Internet to join online communities of peers who share virtually every aspect of personal experience in the public arena of cyberspace. MySpace in particular has become a major facet of modern American youth culture. Bill Tancer, corporate analyst for, reports that MySpace achieved a 4,300 percent increase in visits over the last two years and a 132 percent increase over last year’s figures (2006). In the span of a few years MySpace has become familiar to an entire generation of American youth...

  9. Chapter 8 Public Folklore in Cyberspace
    (pp. 194-212)
    Gregory Hansen

    In 1985 I was working with the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville as a fieldworker for the Kentucky Folk Project. The project was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and it consisted of a twelve-county survey of folk arts in north-central Kentucky. Four months of fieldwork resulted in presentations at the center’s festival, the Kentucky Folklife Celebration. Additional activities included a traveling exhibit entitled “Patterns between the Rivers: Tradition in North-Central Kentucky.” During the course of the project, fieldworkers documented a range of Kentucky folk arts, including blues music, quilt-making, old-time fiddling, johnboat...

  10. Appendix Webography of Public Folklore Resources
    (pp. 213-230)