The International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) has a number of working groups that focus on specific areas of research.
We can now proudly announce a new working group for Digital Ethnology and Folklore! Together with my colleague from UW Robert G Howard, I will co-chair the group and we invite you to subscribe to our mailing list on the working group’s webpage.
Researchers of ethnology and folklore have made the study of everyday life their focus, and those everyday lives are being transformed by continual access to the Internet through personal computers, phones, and other mobile devices. As these technologies have become ubiquitous, the questions researchers must ask are not just about how these technologies work or about the media products they disseminate, but about the massive impact digital practices are having and will continue to have in the daily expression of our shared culture. These practices raise new questions for ethnologists and folklorists.
How do everyday media creations empower people to express themselves? What impact does digital dissemination have on traditional forms and practices? How does the more fluid relationship between institutional and everyday media production affect our shared cultural heritage? What methods can be used to document and archive network-based everyday expression? In short, how are these technologies shaping the way we live our daily lives?
Because these technologies necessarily interact with what happens offline, the relationship, interplay, tensions, and overlaps between the online and the offline create a complex reality that the fields of folklore and ethnology are increasingly called on to address. At the same time, the manifold uses of the Internet and other technologies have created a need for investigation, perspectives, methods, and tools in order to try to understand the implications of these growing modes of expression and forms of practice.
The working group on Digital Ethnology and Folklore (DEF) addresses this need by creating an arena that fosters dialogue between ethnologists, folklorists and other SIEF scholars engaging with digital technologies in their research — including digital culture, digital practices, implications of the digital for our methods, tools, theoretical frameworks and ethical considerations. While scholars of media and communication attempt to address the digital technologies and their products, the ethnological perspectives bring a unique and important focus on the people behind, beside, in front of and inside these digital technologies. Further, folkloristic approaches to cultural expressions in the digital environments are an invaluable contribution to research on digital media and digital technologies.
The working group offers a platform that forwards research in Digital Ethnology and Folklore in order to strengthen and develop the research collaborations already being fostered by SIEF. Further, the working group on Digital Ethnology and Folklore seeks to identity new directions, shifts and emerging issues in our academic disciplines in relation to the uses of digital technologies.