The Reemergence of Folk Culture in Today’s Internet World

Prior to the Internet, there wasn’t really a way for audiences and fans to actively engage with media. Fans and audiences could watch movies or listen to music, but that was the extent to which they were able to engage with it. The Internet created an entirely new way for consumers to engage with media and an entirely new channel for cultural production. The cultural production occurring now, in this new media environment leans much more towards amateur and DIY cultural production than ever before. Jenkins argues that this change is due to people using the tool of the Internet as a way to make their work public.

The new media environment — the introduction of the Internet coupled with audiences’ increased accessible amateur production — Jenkins argues, is “reaffirming the right of everyday people to actively contribute to their culture” (Jenkins, 204). Historically, fans have always been the mot active segment of the media audience, however now they are beginning to become full participants in the production of media. Jenkins argues that there is a distinct difference between interactivity and participation — two terms, he argues, that are often used interchangeably. Interactivity focuses more on the “ways that new technologies have been designed to be more responsive to consumer feedback”, whereas participation is “shaped by the cultural and social protocols” (Jenkins, 204–205). Interactivity is the idea that technologies and new media are more receptive and responsive to consumer input and feedback, but participation focuses more on how consumers and audiences engage with the media.

Jenkins discusses how the traditional fan and producer groups are beginning to merge and return to what he calls a ‘folk culture’. In folk culture, Jenkins argues, “there is no clear division between producers and consumers…within convergence culture, everyone’s a participant — although participants may have different degrees of status and influence” (Jenkins, 204). Historically, in American art, folk traditions have been mixed and matched pieces taken from “various indigenous and immigrant population” (Jenkins, 206). Prior to the twentieth century, Jenkins argues, “there was no pure boundary between the emergent commercial culture and the residual folk culture: the commercial culture raided folk culture, and folk culture raided commercial culture. In this post-modern era of new media technologies, Jenkins argues that there has been a reemergence of grassroots creativity “as everyday people take advantage of new technologies that enable them to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content” (Jenkins, 207). This new convergence culture, Jenkins argues, “will be built on borrowing from various media outlets” (Jenkins, 208). This creative revolution has culminated in the internet — a place where people can not only create their own original or modified existing content, but a place to also share, create, and collaborate with others. The Internet, Jenkins describes, as a reliable system of distribution and has allowed the return of folk culture production. The Internet gives amateur producers a place to get feedback from other users and improve on their work — a right that was traditionally reserved for only professional media producers. Jenkins argues that not all amateur production is good, however it provides the ability to “engage the interest of some modest public, to inspire someone else to create, [and] to provide new content” (Jenkins, 208).

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