FFSS ’15: professionally public personal view.

Folklore Fellows’ Summer School 2015. Or, my publicly personal professional (or something) view to a folkloristic get-together as a digital culture researcher. Summer School has so far been extremely interesting, and I’m really sorry to leave on Sunday, which is tomorrow. Other obligations and family and theater and such are waiting. I had my keynote yesterday, and – partly for my surprise – it evoked quite lively discussion. It seems that our work on online research ethics (mine and R. Turtiainen’s both together and separately) is not one of that many. Of course there are certain ‘gurus’, especially in English-speaking world, but some comments were made yesterday about our work being unique in Finnish context. Also some international interest and thank you’s were directed at my keynote, even though it might not be correct to tell it aloud myself. However, I’m telling it since it felt really good. Online research ethics and the dividing between ‘intimate’ and ‘private’ in my studies have been an important interest of mine for years, so it was really welcome to get noticed for them. The lectures will be collected for publishing, probably next year, in Folklore Fellows’ Communication series, and a review article based on it (with further developing of theory and R. Turtiainen’s input added) will probably be published at fall. That’ll be in Finnish, but there might be a symposium paper as well; it’s still to be seen if we’ll get accepted. Therefore I won’t be adding the keynote to the blog, at least not yet.

*** *** ***

Lynne McNeill talked in the first keynote about what kind of folklore goes on on the web. We saw llamas, The Dress, The Dress-wearing llamas and so on. 😀 The speech was highly inspiring and gave me more understanding about folkloristics; this is always welcome since I’m not a folklorist but I am constantly playing at the edges of the field. The most interesting parts of the lecture were about people becoming active listeners more than passive bearers on the web (or the web itself being a passive bearer for example memes) and about how to connect digital folklore with other kinds. Where people are, there’s the folklore.

Robert Glenn Howard spoke about ‘gunlore’, folklore practices around the web about gun photos, proverbs and so on. He reminded us about that processes happen, practices are made. (I am not sure, though, if I completely agree with the former part… especially when considering cultural appropriation as a process: there is always much active work in it.) He talked about gunlore as a way of communicating; participating in the institutional (f. ex. governmental) as well as vernacular discussions.

Jaakko Suominen, our professor in Digital Culture, gave an example about ‘selittävä muistitietotutkimus’. I can’t translate it literally, since ‘muistitietotutkimus’ refers to both oral history and written memory sources. Freely it might translate into ‘explaining memory research’. He has collected for example inquiries and contemporary sources in order to explain something about the history of console game cultures in Finland. Jaakko’s keynote was more about the results than methods, but he emphasized the advantages of source triangulation in these kind of studies. I strongly agree, and we have used triangulations in both Funetista Facebookiin and Sosiaalisen median lyhyt historia. Also, I utilized it in my doctoral thesis. Triangulative approach works quite well when studying multifaceted phenomena which has been appropriated at many levels and from many situations both simoultaneously and at different times. Jaakko also spoke of ‘household moral economy’, which (when simplified) refers to which kind of things are acceptable at homes. Lynne gave a great comment about how Jaakko’s and Robert’s speeches clarified the concept to her: there is memory material and nostalgic talk about gaming (even though they are somewhat demonized) but there is no similar folklore to be found around guns – you know, such as “oh, I still remember how I brought home my first gun!” This kind of discourse is suffocated by household morals.

Yesterday’s as well as today’s (Friday and Saturday) presentations have been extremely interesting. For example, did you know that there’s a genre of folklore in China called duanzi, which sort of includes every other kind of folklore as long as it is short, appreciated (and passed on)? And yet they have the other kinds of folklore as well. That was truly fascinating, and some of us immediately started to creating our own duanzi.  Here in Seili that would build around the food (we eat 6 times a day. Well). 😀

Today we have heard of biohackers; grinders and hackers who embed technology into their bodies. For example magnets are sewed inside fingertips in order to be able to receive ‘waves’ such as electricity. Also, eyedrops including Chlorin e6 were used in order to be able to see up to 160 feet — in pitch black dark. The phenomena and London‘s study about it is extremely interesting and timely. The concepts of ‘body’ and ‘human’ are changing, no doubt there, definitely. We’ve also discussed pregnancy stories, myths, Finnish and Irish folklore collections — and hate speech online.

Karin studies hate-mongers who address hate speech to Swedish-speaking population in Finland. She has found certain archtypes for hate-monger: a bully, an outsider and some others. Her study is yet quite young, but the types seem to be worth testing; I just might slip some (or all) of them into Kielteinen ja ilkeä -project’s Off Topic -version in September. Jukka talked about performative activity and narratives in digital gaming. I’m not that into gaming, but I found the presentation as well as discussion very interesting from theoretical viewpoint.

Folkloristic approaches are highly interesting to me even though I come from a different kind of a field. From cultural heritage studies I carried some viewpoints, methods, subjects and such with me that shift somewhere between folkloristic, anthropologic,ethnologic and cultural studies. And that’s ok — they really suit digital culture studies well! And besides, even though I’m very, very happy in Digital Culture, I can imagine I would also be happy in studying ‘traditional’ diaries, letters, proverbs, songs/poetry, speech, novels (as I did in my bachelor’s, studying the cultural timeview in 1860’s Paris according to Zola’s Nana), stories, jokes and so on and so on. So, maybe because of that, or for some totally another reason (f. ex. that the discussion here has been extremely lively and people + their views and subjects seem to blend together very well) I’ve had the most interesting time here (and not “interesting times” in a terryprachett-neilgaiman-ish way) and had some very intriguing discussions. I’m very happy to know that my research is of interest and maybe even useful to someone. This has strengthened my career-choice. Of course, I chose to be a researcher for, like, seven years ago, but the confidence about it has been a bit low during the last few years, when my illness got bad enough to slow down and finally stop and close to ruin my dissertation process. This year’s proceeding has brought me back a lot of confidence, and these days in beautiful Seili have sort of sealed it. Too much personal information again, perhaps, but it strongly concerns — and affects — my professional career, which I now have again started to believe I actually am able to have.

Edit on Sunday morning: as last year (when we were here with the Digital Culture Northern Network), it rains on the last morning. Of course it’s not the last for everybody, but it is to me and some others. I keep wishing they’ll publish all the lectures and presentations — and that we may share them among us digitally before actual publishing. The coming days would have been so interesting!

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