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Accepted Paper:

Close without saving? How local traditions may withstand a digital demise  
Francine Barone (Human Relations Area Files at Yale University)

Paper short abstract:

Is the Internet responsible for eroding cultural traditions, or is it just a red herring? A comparison of an endangered urban ritual and new social media activity in Catalonia, Spain, reveals that the lifespan of a tradition is surprisingly not platform-dependent, which bodes well for the future.

Paper long abstract:

The irrepressible expansion of social media continues to inspire fear over losses of distinctive local culture. The more digitally connected humans become – the well-worn dystopian argument goes – the weaker our ties to our geographic and cultural surroundings; our immediate friends and neighbors; and, by extension, the inclination to preserve traditions. Geography and history are certainly key to conceptualizing culture and tradition, but so, too, are those facets central to understanding the digital. How one engages digitally is largely shaped by offline culture, norms, behaviors, and expectations. Thus, any transformative power of the web is best understood situated within specific socio-cultural contexts of offline life.

This paper will focus on the Catalan social drama known as the passeig. This urban ritual, emblematic of public sociality throughout Catalonia, is at risk of extinction. At the time of my ethnographic fieldwork (2007-2009), the activity was depicted by locals of all ages as on the wane, with its central stage deemed by youths as the outdated domain of their grandparents. However, a particular type of interaction on social media shares many similarities with the custom of the passeig, despite youth insistence that such a practice is irrelevant to their lives. Is the power of social media to erode traditions the culprit of such a demise, or merely a red herring? A case study of the most popular social media site among young Catalans during this period will reveal that the lifespan of a tradition is surprisingly not platform-dependent.

Panel P53b
The concept of Tradition: its survival, transformation and virtual world refashioning
  Session 1 Monday 6 June, 2022, -