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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


Expressive culture and identities in a digital age

Location Ülikooli 18, 227
Date and Start Time 02 July, 2013 at 14:45


Coppélie Cocq (Umeå University) email
Anna Johansson (Umeå University) email
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Short Abstract

The objective of this panel is to investigate circuits of communication and circulation in a hybrid world, i.e. how cultural forms and identities are produced through complex interplays between online and offline contexts.

Long Abstract

In this panel, we propose to explore how folkloristics and ethnology can fruitfully engage with digital humanities in order to approach "new" circuits of communication and circulation in a hybrid world. While early theorists of digital culture were concerned with differences between life online and offline, scholars of today tend to emphasize the ever-present entanglement of digital and physical worlds. Cultural expressions are increasingly created, adapted, distributed and consumed in and in relation to online media. The ubiquitousness of digital media and the Internet in everyday life means that contemporary cultural forms and identities need to be understood as hybrid, produced through complex interplays between online and offline contexts.

The objective of the panel is to investigate this hybridity, or the situatedness of digital media, through empirical case studies. We welcome papers on expressive culture and identity construction in the interstice between the virtual and the physical. We are particularly interested in studies that examine this aspect in the context of various communities and their identity work at individual and collective levels. Questions that can be addressed are for instance: How does cultural production take place through hybrid practices? How do bodies online and offline interact, and how is their relationship structured? What is the role of hybridity in collective identity production? How are cultural norms maintained and/or questioned through hybridity?

Our hope with this panel is to contribute to conceptual and theoretical discussions regarding the relation between digital humanities and folkloristics/ethnology.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Persistence and recombination: from loveletter to declaration of love - camera phone video

Author: Klaus Schönberger (Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt)  email

Short Abstract

Analysing the new cultural form of Camera Phone Videos, this paper contributes 1. to the theoretisation of socio-cultural change. 2., it raises the question of empirical conceptualization of analyses of socio-cultural practices in relation to digital and mobile communication both online and offline.

Long Abstract

This paper introduces a theoretical model to analyse the relationship between ‚real life' und ‚virtual life' through concrete socio-cultural practices. It aims to grasp the relationship between technical artifact and social praxes as well as cultural practices in a way that avoids techno-determinism. Socio-cultural change is understood as the relationship between persistence and recombination. Thus change and new developments can be analysed on the basis of what is already there.

Based on a research project on camera phone videos, I will discuss the relationship of persistence and recombination in the context of digital communication and its related socio-cultural practices.

An empirical example: A young woman declares her love to a young man through two camera phone videos. The declaration of love is an established socio-cultural practice, which is being enacted in various mediated environments (as a letter, email or text-message). I will use the two camera phone videos to show in which way such well-known (persistent) communication practices develop into changed (sometimes even new) recombinant practices under different technical (digital) conditions. Digital communication is understood as an enabling potential. On one hand, new forms of expression emerge, as language and image can be connected. On the other hand, problems of privacy arise due to the possibilities of digital circulation.

This example will show how digital studies need to take into account several forms of hybridity: First, the relationship online/offline, second, the possibilities to articulate a declaration of love and third, hybridities that emerge in the social process amongst actors.

Dialogic oral poetry in traditional and modern media

Author: Venla Sykäri (Finnish Literature Society)  email

Short Abstract

This paper argues that dialogic forms of traditional oral poetry constantly navigate within the web of texts and face-to-face performance. The identity of the poetic text as a potential source of meaning is therefore similar in traditional oral as well as in modern mediated environments.

Long Abstract

The dialogicality of traditional oral poetry is a little researched subject. A systematic analysis of what people do with registers deeply rooted in their community can, however, show how identities, art and meaning are created by dialogic navigation within the web of texts and performances. Basing on recent long-term fieldwork, this paper will discuss how Cretans create these webs by performing the local rhyming couplets as utterances in performance, and by circulating them as entities with potential meaning.

Traditionally, the improvised or memorized couplets are sung with music and dance during festivities and informal singing events in Crete. The poems have also offered the means for expressing emotions and attitudes in casual proverbial communication. Until the 1980s, these activities were taken to create face-to-face dialogues in the whole community - but several inside-groups continue the tradition up to this day. During the last decades, nevertheless, poems more commonly appear in professional music performances as well as in daily television and radio shows. Today, they are widely distributed in the Internet and as text messages. As faceless as these new venues may seem, in this research the possibility for a parallel analysis of the new and traditional arenas brought forth significant similarities between them. The basic similarity is that people compose, stock and circulate texts as entities for potential dialogues.

Hybrid patienthood: psychiatric patients and mental health services in a digital age

Author: Anna Johansson (Umeå University)  email

Short Abstract

People with negative experiences from mental health services sometimes gather online to form critical communities. The paper explores how this interaction, in interplay with offline practices, may transform the relation between patient and psychiatry, thus producing new forms of psychiatric patienthood.

Long Abstract

People with negative experiences from mental health services sometimes gather to share their stories in forums, blogs and other social media. Such accounts often emphasize inaccessibility of services and lack of resources in the mental health care system, as well as problems with particular clinics or individual staff members. Many advocate change, and they also challenge a view of the psychiatric patient as being incapable of self-determination or self-advocacy. The accounts contribute to the formation of loosely defined patient communities, involving identity production on individual as well as collective levels. Care providers, in turn, have to find ways of responding to the criticism while also dealing with the fact that forms of online interaction can sometimes be seen as interfering with goals of treatment.

Historically, mental care patients have had limited opportunities to take part in public debate, and the relationship between patient and psychiatry has traditionally been understood as marked by power imbalances. Therefore, it is important to investigate how social media use, in interplay with offline practices and relationships, may transform psychiatric patienthood. These matters are explored in this paper through an ethnographic study of patients' online spaces as well as interviews with mental health professionals. The paper addresses questions such as: In what ways may use of social media reformulate what it means to be a psychiatric patient? How is this handled by mental health care institutions, and what are the potential consequences for actual care practices?

Tweeting through the city: digital mobility and the tactics of walking

Author: Anthony Buccitelli (The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg)  email

Short Abstract

This study argues that the integration of "locative" media into the everyday tactics of movement through urban space has reshaped individual spatial practices and renewed the possibility of creating of what De Certeau calls “local legends.”

Long Abstract

This study argues that the integration of "locative" media, highly localizing digital technologies, into the everyday tactics of movement through urban space has not only reshaped individual spatial practices, but also opened up new digital spaces for the renewed creation of what De Certeau calls "local legends." By using mobile devices to access digital annotations on virtual representations of physical space, such as Google Maps and Earth, people make choices about where and how to travel based on information about local spaces that they receive digitally. At the same time, through locative social media technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare, many users now track their own physical movements through urban space while simultaneously discussing these movements with other people. This emerging expressive dynamic in everyday life creates a situation of double vernacularity, in which users articulate their own personal tactics of walking, while also engaging in a process of social discourse and narration that itself can reinvest urban spaces with social meaning. This overlay of vernacular social discourse onto the everyday personal tactics of walking in the city reinvigorates the possibility that these tactics might serve as meaningful resistance to spatial power. Ironically, however, by integrating these tactics with institutionally-produced technologies, this process also more deeply links our everyday practices to the hegemonic forces that it proposes to contest.

Exploring world(s) through geocaching

Author: Mare Kalda (Estonian Literary Museum)  email

Short Abstract

The paper will focus on geocaching – a new kind of treasure hunt going on since 2000 all over the world. Locating physical objects offline and sharing information online, hobbists gain new experience and add colour to their life.

Long Abstract

Now in its 14th year, the geocaching is a hobby of about 5 million people, according to the official website geocaching.com. The basic idea of the hobby is treasure hunt with the help of modern technical equipment and reporting one's progress on the Internet. People involved both hide new "treasure-boxes" and maintain the geocaches already existing in the game. This way the game is kept going, players ensure, that each cache is fully available (it is present on the landscape and has up-to-date information online). Both areas in question are also continously debated and reflected by an active community on discussion forums.

As seen from folklorist's point of view, I could categorise the activity as a game which combines and varies performances in the actual world and those conducted in the virtual environment. In this paper, I will discuss how people involved with the hobby reflect themselves thus symbolically and experientially changing the world into the world of geocaching. It makes travelling, hiking, backbacking etc. more exciting and fulfilling as it presents a goal, a clear objective, a puzzle, which needs to be solved.

The hybridity of Sámi expressive culture

Author: Coppélie Cocq (Umeå University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper investigates the internet as the locus for expressive culture with focus on the specific case of the Sámi. It examines the intersection, overlap and tensions between online and offline practices and their implications for revitalization movements.

Long Abstract

The internet has become a site for adaptation of traditional cultural practices as well as production and emergence of new ones. In this presentation, I propose to investigate the internet as the locus for expressive culture in a context of revitalization. It focuses on the specific case of the Sámi, indigenous people of Scandinavia. Today, we witness a strong process of revitalization within the Sámi community, i.e. an effort to construct a more satisfying culture. Revitalization is initiated and put in practice on many scenes, and the internet is certainly one of these. This paper investigates the intersection, overlap and tensions between the online and the offline, in order to highlight the possibilities and challenges that the internet implies for revitalization movements. First, I discuss examples of aesthetic practices where traditions are identified as a source of origin, but where internet-based self-representations cast their shadow on contemporary traditions. Then, I examine the mode of hybridity that takes place between the vernacular and the institutional when expressive culture is relocated online. The third mode of hybridity I investigate is between local and global aspects, i.e. what happens when culturally specific aspects address a global audience. I suggest this three-fold model of approach of hybridity as a fruitful angle of approach for the study of indigenous expressive culture in a digital age.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.