Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Folklorists versus Viral Videos

A proposal, not a link:

It occurred to me tonight that folklore (not folk tales, but real "My friend's sister's friend's aunt said...." folklore--the "FOFA" or "Friend of a friend" transmission that is absolutely characteristic of the subject matter of professional folklorists) is the original viral content, like viral videos are today.

Before, information was spread verbally. Now it's forwarded to people. But the choice to transmit or not transmit (verbally or electronically) comes down to the same insticts and choices in the receivers--does it have value culturally and personally, and is it memorable enough to stick until it gets moved on.

So I'm wondering (and will probably search google scholar about this) if professional academic folklorists have studied what makes something "folklore" (casually transmitted knowledge) and then applied those findings to creating viral video campaigns. We have hundreds of years worth of data about what has been passed on from person to person in the seems we ought to be mining that data for clues about what people will continue to pass on. I know marketers study this, and so do sociologists--but neither of their disciplines is so specifically tied up in information that is transmitted from person to person in a viral way.

But folklorists entire point of existence is to study cultural viruses (be they songs, recipes, ways of farming, stories, or urban legends). The information they have amassed ought not to be marginalized, but embraced and mined!

Especially since so many things--videos, music, art--with the advent of electronic everythings, have gone back to being folk disciplines, owned and promoted by the people rather than by some official entity that is the arbiter of taste.

I know it seems weird to look at "Star Wars Tribute to John Williams" as a folk song, but if you take the strict academic definitions, there is reason to consider it that way.....

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