No. 10 (2010): The Folk Process through New Media - By Joycee James

Besides television and cinema, mobile phones and digital texts like the e-mail have emerged as efficient facilitators of the folk process. Most of the narratives thus transmitted are in the form of small tales, anecdotes, jokes, humorous one-liners, and riddles. This paper explores the dissemination of folktales through email and mobile phones. The author of these stories is the transmitter of the message, and like the traditional storyteller he is not the creator of tales: what he or she does is a retelling. This paper explores the narratives in selected texts like the email and SMS over mobile phones to illustrate the folk process through the new media. The study involves field work for the collection of e-mail and SMS narratives. This was done in several stages over a period of six months. In the first stage, I made casual enquiries at around fifty homes in Chennai (Tamil Nadu, India) and Thrissur (Kerala, India) regarding email and SMS narratives. Through this enquiry, I gathered information about the kind of narratives transmitted. During the second stage, I interviewed thirty five respondents in Chennai in the age group of fourteen to fifty five who participated in tale transmission. Of the thirty five, fourteen were software engineers. The rest included students, housewives, bank employees, and office workers. Housewives generally did not participate in tale transmission over mobile phones or email. I interviewed software engineers to confirm that despite their long working hours and pressure of work, they did enjoy transmitting these tales. The third stage, which did not diachronically follow the first two, was requesting friends and acquaintances to send me email and SMS narratives. I did this to collect the material in context, to study the nature of the community that sends these messages (email narratives were mostly forwarded ones), and analyze the structure, style and linguistic aspects of the narratives. India is a great nation of storytellers and folktales and this paper explores how the new media has provided space for the uninterrupted folk process to continue.

Published: 2010-12-01