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Folklore and Social Networks

Liisi Laineste, Mari Sarv - Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum (Estnisches Literaturmuseum)

Folklore is a phenomenon that spreads through communication. Therefore, the social network analysis seems to be a highly relevant method to study the spread of the folklore, its variance and creativity. Thus far it has been used only marginally, the quantitative methods have not been in vogue in folkloristics, and the computational folkloristics is only emerging. The most voluminous source materials in the folklore studies are historical folklore recordings written down by the folklore collectors, with brief contextual data. We have only limited information on the use of folklore in the communication, on the communities which have been using the folklore. This is the missing part, unknown in the equation, SNA can help us to shed some light on. It is reasonable to presume, that the extent of the similarities between the texts or repertories refers to the density of communication between the persons, the villages, the regions etc.

In the case of contemporary material it is possible to study the spread of folklore in the real communities, what can be done more easily in the case of online communities, where we can track all the acts of communication. Cultural communication in internet may scale into a shared social phenomenon. Sharing has emerged as a central cultural logic, encompassing both sharing as distribution and sharing as communication. Interenet users are both distributors and active creators of cultural items. They make use of and create social memory through becoming engaged in an active dialogue with previous cultural texts and with the potential audience. Intertextuality should thus be highlighted as a central feature that lies at the crossroads of the medium, the people and the message.

Although the media used for communication have diversified in the present days, the mechanisms that regulate interaction and the functions it carries have largely remained the same. This motivated us to use network analysis on material from different times in order to bring out the differences and commonalities. In our paper we will try to shed light to the social networks and communities through describing folkloric exchange in a historical versus contemporary context.

Download the slides from the speech (2,0 MB) .