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Mass Media and Folklore

As human societies evolve, so does the way they transmit their cultural heritage. From oral traditions to printed media, and now to digital platforms, folklore, the repository of a community’s shared wisdom, continues to find new channels for dissemination.

Historical Background

Folklore comprises the traditional beliefs, customs, stories, and sayings of a people, passed through generations. Before the advent of mass media, folklore was transmitted primarily through oral narratives, performances, and artifacts [1].

The Role of Mass Media

The advent of mass media, starting with print media in the 15th century, followed by electronic (radio, television) and digital media (the internet), has dramatically transformed the diffusion of folklore.

  1. Print Media: Folklore moved from an oral tradition to written form, reaching wider audiences. Local legends and myths found their way into storybooks and journals, preserving them for posterity [2].
  2. Radio and Television: Folktales and legends were brought to life with dramatic enactments, allowing for a new way to engage with these traditional narratives [3].
  3. Digital Media: Internet and social media platforms have globalized folklore, making cultural narratives accessible beyond geographical borders [4].

Folklore in the Age of Mass Media

Mass media has revolutionized folklore in several ways:

Accessibility and Preservation

Folklore, in the pre-mass media era, was vulnerable to loss and distortion with each generational handoff. Mass media, particularly digital platforms, offer repositories where these narratives can be stored and accessed globally, ensuring their preservation.

Evolution of Narratives

Traditionally, folklore was relatively static, its variations largely geographic or familial. Mass media has stimulated creative reinterpretations, cross-cultural pollination, and evolution of folklore.

Democratization of Folklore

Folklore was typically curated and controlled by community elders. Mass media has democratized the process. Now, anyone can contribute, disseminate, or modify folklore narratives.

Increased Engagement

The immersive nature of mass media, especially digital, has increased audience engagement. Folklore has found new life in digital games, online communities, and social media trends.

Case Study: Internet Memes as Digital Folklore

Internet memes, viral content that is shared, replicated, and often modified, embody modern folklore. Memes, like folklore, carry cultural symbols, values, and shared experiences, evolving with each share and interpretation. A comparative analysis reveals intriguing parallels.

Traditional FolkloreInternet Memes
Oral or performance-basedDigital, visual-textual
Shared within a communityShared globally
Reflects cultural beliefs, valuesReflects internet culture, trends
Passed down generationsRapidly evolving
Often anonymous creatorsOften anonymous creators

Table 1: Comparison of Traditional Folklore and Internet Memes


The intersection of folklore and mass media is a testament to humanity’s enduring need to share and perpetuate cultural narratives. This intersection also highlights the dynamism and adaptability of folklore as it continues to evolve with advancements in communication technology. As mass media shapes the form and reach of folklore, it emphasizes the shared human experience, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries.


[1] Dundes, A. (1984). Folklore matters. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

[2] Bascom, W. (1965). The forms of folklore: Prose narratives. Journal of American Folklore, 78(307), 3-20.

[3] Abrahams, R. D. (1972). Broadcasting/Receiving as a communicative process. Journal of the Folklore Institute, 9(2/3), 123-151.

[4] Blank, T. J. (2013). Folk culture in the digital age: The emergent dynamics of human interaction. Utah State University Press.

Anthropologist Vasundhra - Author and Anthroholic

Vasundhra, an anthropologist, embarks on a captivating journey to decode the enigmatic tapestry of human society. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity, she unravels the intricacies of social phenomena, immersing herself in the lived experiences of diverse cultures. Armed with an unwavering passion for understanding the very essence of our existence, Vasundhra fearlessly navigates the labyrinth of genetic and social complexities that shape our collective identity. Her recent publication unveils the story of the Ancient DNA field, illuminating the pervasive global North-South divide. With an irresistible blend of eloquence and scientific rigor, Vasundhra effortlessly captivates audiences, transporting them to the frontiers of anthropological exploration.

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