Playing folklorists online: teaching about folk art through interactivity.

Author:Underberg, Natalie M.

The Folkvine project (www.folkvine. org) is an effort to utilize new media to share the stories of Florida folk artists and their communities on the internet. Through the use of digital media, the project seeks ways to present and, most importantly, experience their art and culture as well. This form of online ethnographic storytelling provides an arena for enacting the research process in a way that moves beyond text-based presentation. The design and navigation structures of the websites on seek to simultaneously present the context for understanding cultural stories and the experience of ethnography and ethnology (method and interpretation). By creatively exploiting the characteristics of digital environments, reflects the narrative and reflexive trends in anthropology and folkloristics (Pink 2001; Van Maanen 1988).

The Folkvine elementary school game is an online board game created with through the joint efforts of the University of Central Florida and the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs . Elementary school students at Sterling Creek Elementary in Orlando, Florida, created brightly colored artwork for the game, based on the artwork of Folkvine artists Lilly Carrasquillo, Ruby C. Williams, and Kurt Zimmerman. The game board consists of seventeen spaces for "task" questions about individual artists, as well as several "junction" spots (addressing key themes and requiring a detour if they are answered incorrectly) and "chance" spots (relating to unforeseen events and circumstances surrounding the Folkvine public events). Although there are three main game boards focusing on three artists, the questions involve, to some degree, all of the seven artists featured in the first two years of the Folkvine site (including Taft Richardson, Ginger LaVoie, Wayne and Marty Scott, and Diamond Jim Parker).

The player joins the Folkvine team as an event planner in-training, and must complete several steps along the way. First, the player mixes and matches a bobblehead avatar from various parts and color options. The player then chooses an artist from a splash page. When the user picks an artist, he/she is taken to the game board for that particular artist. The game board reflects the art and life of the artist. For example, Lilly Carrasquillo's board has drawings of coquis (a type of frog common to Puerto Rico and the figure which she first sold when she became an artist) and Mexican sun masks (a form of art she creates).

Then the player can begin the game. There are three types of cards on the board. The "task" cards send the player to the artist's site to answer questions about the artist; question topics generally concern the motivations behind, uses of, and history of various artistic practices. Solutions to these questions take the form of a multiple choice answer and a...

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