Digital places for Sami cultural expression


Digital places for Sami cultural expression (2010-2012)

This project investigates how Sámi folklore emerges in digital places. In the immediate context of redefinition of the national minorities in Sweden, issues related to visibility and continuity of traditions require further investigation.

My aim is to study how Sámi culture and traditions are presented in Sámi digital media, more specifically how digital environments may provide a scene for creation and adaptation of Sámi expressive culture. In this purpose, I will examine Internet websites and analyze qualitative data from producers and consumers. I will explore in which ways traditional modes of expression have been adapted to Internet, how new modes of communication manage to convey aspects of Sámi traditions and culture and how these contribute to ongoing processes of cultural and linguistic revitalization in Sápmi.

In the contemporary context of linguistic and cultural revitalization, we ought to investigate the effects and implications of the development of digital places as scenes for a minority’s cultural expressions.

Taking as a point of departure that innovation does not exclude preservation (Dégh, 1994; Selberg, 1993), the analysis of digital genres will highlight how Sámi folklore in general and narratives in particular have been preserved and modified.

The rich Sámi storytelling tradition is a central form of cultural expression. Its role in the articulation of norms, values and discourses has been emphasized in previous research (Balto, 1997; Cocq, 2008; Fjellström, 1986). It is a means to learn and communicate valuable knowledge – a shared understanding.

With this project, I will investigate to what extent digital places contribute to the continuity of Sámi storytelling tradition. My approach will take into account both form and function, i.e. narrative structure and strategies, the storyteller’s positions, but also entertaining, communicative and socializing aspects.

Also, I will investigate whether digital places success in articulating Sámi identities and can contribute to cultural revitalization.

The transition from an artistic performance to digital places entails an adaptation not only to a new medium, but also to a new audience, and a new context. Bearing in mind the significance of folklore for performing identities (cf Kuutma, 2006), it is of interest to consider the contemporary situation and how expressive culture in digital media manage to render cultural heterogeneity and convey cultural specific information.

The process of globalization and the development of different media for communication has implied that new forms of cultural expressions take place in our society, where traditional social activities and gathering, former arenas for storytelling and performances, are in disappearance. The emergence of new forms of expression arouses therefore questions related to the possibilities and limitations of digital places as a cultural specific mode of communication.

It is essential to investigate in what way the diversity of Sámi identities is represented in contemporary Sámi digital media in Sweden. Overemphasis of identity markers such as reindeer or the North Sámi language, for instance, may result in the marginalization of Sámi who are not reindeer herders or who do not speak North Sámi.

Another aspect focuses on the role of digital places in language revitalization. Media have a central role in the promotion of languages, and its impact on dissemination of words and pedagogical communication is acknowledged. Also, digital media places are significant in the preservation and vitality of the languages, since they constitute a site of creativity and renewal (Council of Europe 1999). Terminology related to contemporary topics or technology can be shaped and spread through Internet websites. One focus of this project lies therefore in the effect of media on Sámi language in terms of standardization and modernization. Sámi consist of several languages, and processes of revitalization in relation to the redefinition of the Sámi identities need to be taken into account in this approach.

Balto, Asta. 1997. Samisk barneoppdragelse i endring: Ad notam Gyldendal AS.

Cocq, Coppélie. 2008. Revoicing Sámi Narratives. North Sámi storytelling at the turn of the 20th century. Department of Language Studies, Umeå.

Council of Europe. 1999. Implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Regional and Minority Languages 2. Council of Europe

-.2006. Application of the charter in Sweden. European charter for minorities or regional languages. Council of Europe: 2d report

Dégh, Linda. 1994. American folklore and the mass media. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press.

Fjellström, Phebe. 1986. Samernas samhälle i tradition och nutid. Stockholm: P.A. Nordstedt & Söner Förlag.

Kuutma, Kristin. 2006. Changing Codified Symbols of Identity. FFNetwork for the Folklore Fellows, 31.7-11.

Selberg, Torunn. 1993. Folklore and Mass Media. Nordic Frontiers, ed. by Anttonen, Pertti J. and Reimund Kvideland. Turku: NIF.


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