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CMNS 110 (282)
Lecture 4

Fall 2012 CMNS 110 Reading Notes Week 4.doc

14 Pages

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CMNS 110
Gary Mc Carron

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← CMNS 110 Reading Notes ← ← Legends on the Net : An Examination of Computer-Mediated Communication as a Locus of Oral Culture (J. Fernback) ← ← URBAN LECTURES AS POPULAR CULTURAL TEXT ← ← Characteristics of Urban Legends • Reflect culture and history of a given people • Stories that people tell to themselves about themselves • Illustrate familiar cultural mores, values, and ethos • Authenticate a culture’s self-identity • Type of folktale • Orally transmitted, anonymous • Varying in specific detail from one recounting to another • Maintain core elements that make them recognizable • Usually false, but tell a type of truth o Unique, unselfconscious reflection of major concerns of individuals in societies in which legends circulate • Moralistic component • Symbolic of cultural fascination with ugliness that lies beneath normalcy of everyday existence • Reinforce social norms • Emphasize traditional morality • Could happen • Collective response to some form of community crisis • Encode social ambiguities that underlie that concern • Admonitions against violating community standards ← • Ritual response to form of social chaos • Attempt to reduce anxiety and subcultural inrerstitiality • Attempt to restore cultural identiy in the face of anonymity of industrialized culture • Visions of our natural heritage • Influences public imagination ← ← Mass media and urban legend • Perpetuate circulation of urban legends • Legends flourish with widespread media attention • Media can liberate folktales from their confinement to low culture • Mediated transmission lends it an authoritative character as authentic voice of all humankind ← ← Mediated legends • Exhibit the characteristics associated with oral folklore o Traditional o Socially relevant o Applicable to current social norms and situations • Urban legends can gain new and long lives through repeated email forwarding • Ubiquity of mass mediated sources of communication would lessen the desire for both the performance and reception of legends if we interpret the oral narrative tradition to be a situation of desirable aesthetic experience • Appearance of an urban legend in popular media sparks excited recognition in audience members who recognize the oral legend ← ← Counterparts in literature and popular media • No real counterparts to legends in literature and popular media • Due to localized nature of urban legend • Impression of its insignificance ← ← Legends in the CMC environment • Not the case with the presence of urban legends within the CMC environment • Debated seriously, forwarded again and again, responded to overwhelmingly • People who receive legends via email respond, forward, relate to it as a form of oral culture • Informality, repetitive structure, concrete detail quotidian content, empathetic nature of urban legends in cyberspace illustrates the connection that people feel to them as stories of human condition ← ← Example: poisoned Halloween candy (food adulteration stories) • Not true, but it has happened • Moral: we should be cautious consumers • Food adulterating stories are captivating o Resonate across cultures and community boundaries o Extraordinary, yet plausible o Told in an authoritative voice o Sufficient detail to arouse element of truth o Address deep fears about acts of evil being disguised as acts of kindness o Examine issues of trust in our culture ← ← Folklore in cyberspace • We tend to think of legends as developing from illiterate, pre- industrial folk society that die out in literate, industrial society • BUT tales survive in media and cyberspace ← ← Functions of folklore in cyberspace • Pop entertainment o Entertaining popular cultural statement among online users • Enculturation • Social critique o Red Velvet Cake story: critique of consumer culture o Part of the public sphere of debate o Internet as device to enter the sphere o Form of resistance to capital paradigm ← ← CONTEMPORARY ORAL CULTURE ← ← The Authority of the Printed Word • Development of new technologies does not demand or contribute to the obsolescence of existing ones • Writing cannot supplant oral communication • Writing has replaced oral communication in certain communicative contexts • Also helped to create new contexts • Electronic media are only substitutes for oral and written communication in certain contexts • Electronic media are always dependent on oral and written communication • Writing is always dependent on the oral use of language • Oral tradition remains vibrate but is subordinate to literate tradition • Printed word is the authority in contemporary literate societies Evanescence of Orality • Printed word is permanence, oral performance is not o Oral words are ephemeral and disappearing o Questionable veracity o Doubtful legitimacy o Inaccurate reproduction • Orality of urban legends transcends text-based orality • Reception in space and time are crucial elements to constitution of computer-mediated urban legends as a form of orality within cyberspace • Cyberspace legends are oral in original composition, but written in transmission and performance ← ← Authority through Media • Mediated nature of CMC legends lends them authority and legitimacy • Confirming and disproving now part of online websites concerned with urban legends ← ← Secondary Orality • Electronic media technology has brought humankind into the age of secondary orality (Ong) • Re-emergence of oral character in communication • Blend of oral, literate and electronic cultures • Resembles traditional oral culture o Participatory mystique o Fostering of communal sense o Concentration on present moment o Use of formulas • More circumspect and self-conscious in its basis in the use of writing • Secondary orality generate a sense of groups larger than those of primary orality  McLuhan’s global village • Oral folk was group minded, secondary orality is group-minded self-consciously and programmatically ← ← Change in character of orality from pre-literate to literate society • Altered course of verbal arts o Plot development o Characterization • Evident in urban legends ← ← Rhetoric of Urban Legends • Like oral storytelling meticulous and artful o Highly organized (by principles of organization known to the mind shaped by orality) o Aggregative o Classificatory o Reliant on proverb and meter o Less abstract and distanced than written o Redundant o Cliché o Linear o Concrete references to what already exists o Empathy Present in urban legends and email forwards of urban legends Summary • Urban legends originate in literate culture • Are bound by structures of mind that exist as a result of literacy • Exhibit many of the characteristics of composition of oral cultures CYBERSPACE AS A SITE FOR ORAL CULTURE • Urban legends in cyberspace are performed and transmitted in textual form via CMC • Culture of cyberspace differs from physical culture • How do those differences shape the making of meaning? o Changes in relationships between communication, language, social structures, cultural identities o Authenticity and legitimacy must be reassessed o New symbolic strategies • Electronic communication has transformed linguistic experiences and expression through language • ‘revolution in human cognition’ • orality in cyberspace is somewhat ambiguous • has a dimension of
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