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Utah State University's Digital Folklore Project Tracks "Digital Trend of the Year"

Monday, December 1, 2014   (0 Comments)
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Logan, UTDuck-lip selfies, Confession Bear memes, urban legends about tainted Halloween candy, Ebola scares; they’re not exactly what people tend to think of when they hear the word "folklore.” But, they all are very much a part of Utah State University’s College of Humanities and Social Science’s Digital Folklore Project.

The venture, which launched recently, has the goal of tracking digital folklore trends such as urban legends, Internet memes, hashtags, vines and more.

Housed within USU’s Department of English and hosted by the Folklore Program and the Fife Folklore Archives in the Merrill-Cazier Library, the Digital Folklore Project currently is collecting nominations for "Digital Trend of the Year” on its website ( and through the hashtag #digitaltrendoftheyear.

The project is spearheaded and co-founded by Jeannie Thomas, professor of folklore and English Department head, and Lynne McNeill, director of online development. Their research team, made up of undergraduate and graduate students, currently is assessing data to determine the first such award.

"Digital forums provide powerful venues for everyday people to give voice to matters that concern or delight them,” said Thomas. "The Digital Folklore Project is unique in that it tracks and analyzes these important forms of online grassroots culture.”

With the surge in Internet use, and a culture seemingly obsessed with ever-changing online activities, ideas, stories and fads, the project likely will have no shortage of nominees for the Digital Trend Award. And though folklore and the digital domain may seem an unlikely pairing, McNeill begs to differ.

"These days, many folklorists are doing work with cultures and forms that the average person definitely doesn’t associate with the word ‘folklore,’ and this project is a great opportunity to begin to expand those associations,” she said. "Digital trends like hashtags and memes are a major way that everyday people can make their voices heard, building on and adapting the ideas of other people to make their own unique statement, whether for the sake of humor or for more serious cultural commentary. Folklorists have some unique insights on this surprisingly traditional process, and we're excited to be sharing those insights through the Digital Trend of the Year.”

Digital Folklore Project organizers encourage contributions to the Digital Trend of the Year. Tweet to @DigFolkProj on Twitter using the hashtag #DigitalTrendOfTheYear or email suggestions to The Digital Trend of the Year will be announced on the DFP website December 13.

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