Grappling with digitality--some reflections.

Author:Arvidsson, Alf

Step by step, ethnologists, folklorists and culture anthropologists are making sense of digital technologies. Questions of ontology, epistemology and methodology have been stated, addressed and continue to be discussed. Does the internet change our ways of being? Are these potential changes something for our disciplines to deal with? If so, how should we proceed?

The articles in this volume propose different ways of ethnographic exploration and thus contributes to our repertoire of research practices. Reading them triggered some speculations for me about possible tracks of continued research. Some are already present and articulated in the articles, others emerged from my impression of the collection of research. As a way to present my ideas, I start from what I think are the strong sides of our disciplines, the fields we have authority in, and the aspects that can make a difference in the gold rush-like expansion of "digital humanities".

The greatest achievement of folklore studies has perhaps not been the identification of certain kinds of texts, but rather the study of the circulation of "texts". Arguments for folkloric qualities in digital media have already been strongly put forward (Blank 2009, 2012); the differences are more to be found in terms of "tradition velocity", that is, the speed of transmission from one link to another has increased with digital media, which not only enhances the rapidness of the spread but also the possibilities of fast reaction and feedback. Here, Howard's study gives testimony to how our understanding of folklore processes can be enhanced by studies of digital media--and vice versa.

The study of digital media also opens up the possibility of revisions of our previous research pre-internet and pre-social media. The image of the authentic folk culture, orally conceived and transmitted and existing on its own outside any practices of writing, was one of the discipline-shaping determinants that both made studies possible and at the same time restricted the range of what could be seen and what insights could be put into words. Although no longer a scientific prerequisite, it has loomed in the background as a model of what constitutes a research topic. Now, an interesting aspect of the studies at hand is how they point to how new media make way for new usages of the alphabet as a communication technology. In social media, many messages are sent in the form of text--and this reminds us to reflect on how writing...

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