AFS 2018

For those who have asked, below are links to the paper I gave at this year’s meeting of the American Folklore Society along with the slides and the handout (which was a version of the slides, so you don’t need both). As I catch up with everything on which I have fallen behind, I will post my notes about the conference itself in some fashion.

Here are: the paper, the slides, and the handout for “It’s about Time: How Folk Narratives Manage Time in Discourse.”

Abstract: Concluding his consideration of “Time in Folk-Narrative,” Bill Nicolaisen noted that the nature of human experience is centrally of time and that what marked genres of folk narrative, perhaps as much, or more, than anything else, was their management of time: “What must be stressed, however, is that in contrast to the concepts and realization of an extended present and of narrated time in the folktale, the dramatic comparisons made in the legend are designed to demonstrate the incompatibility of the two time frames, which exist as parallel systems” (318). Much of Nicolaisen’s efforts are focused on a careful compilation of how time is signaled, and thus managed, within the discourse of ten fairy tales drawn randomly from Thompson’s One Hundred Favorite Folktales. This paper revisits and extends Nicolaisen’s work, taking as its central task the careful attention to words used. Where Nicolaisen focused principally on the folktale, with occasional references to legend, this paper, part of a larger examination of legends in the current moment, uses a number of legends taken, first, from oral discourse, and then a number of legends found online. It follows this examination with a look at, what the paper itself argues, is the adjacent genre of the personal anecdote, sometimes also known as the personal experience narrative, in order to determine how a close examination of the management of time, in discourse, might reveal where the two genres converge or diverge, in hopes of finding a better way to model both and reliable discursive cues. Some of the methodologies deployed are computational in nature, beginning with forms of markup first explored by computer scientists Pustejovsky et alum and followed up by recent attempts to automate temporal signals in texts by David Elson. The current work seeks to re-imagine the pioneering work of Bill Nicolaisen, and before him Benjamin Colby, in light of recent developments in computational modeling of narrative with an especial focus on what that means for the study of genre.

Nicolaisen, William. 1978. Time in Folk-Narrative. In Folklore Studies in the Twentieth Centuries, 314-319. Ed. Venetia Newall. Rowman and Littlefield. (Available as a PDF.)

Conference Announcement: “What Affordance Affords”

November 25-27, 2013 – Darmstadt, Germany

The interdisciplinary conference features contributions from the
perspectives of philosophy, sociology, psychology, science studies,
economics, architecture and design. It investigates the concept
‘affordance’, its history and transformations as it traveled through
different research fields and disciplines. The notion of affordance
originates and is frequently identified with ecological thinking, it
appears in considerations about interdependencies and interactions,
about relational configurations and ontologies. Digital objects, smart
materials, chemical devices, robots and the human body, geographical
information systems and neuronal activity, hydrological infrastructure
and landscape parks – all of these are presented and discussed as
providing or being affordances. A variety of epistemological positions
will be defended, different ontological claims advanced and relevant
background theories invoked. There will be advocates of the notion and
its heuristic value, and skeptics seeking to critique its current

Conference Website:

The Joy(s) of the Small Conference

There has been a growing trend of late among Americans to re-discover the joys of small things, or at least smaller things. Small, but high quality. [Jason Kottke’s recent experience at the XOXO conference][kottke] in Portland, Oregon is typical in its appreciation of how quality changes when going from big events to small ones:

* Event organizers care deeply about the event and about the participants and want everyone to have a good experience. The result of such a commitment is that the organizers themselves get so personally involved that they themselves have a very profound experience.
* Participants in small conferences are less interested in being hip or cool, in distancing themselves from others.
* Quite the opposite: they find themselves wanting to be involved. Use of devices of mass distraction (phones, tablets, computers) goes way down and listening goes way up.

The down side of such an event, it seems, is that it left Kottke with some longing for authenticity — at least, that’s what seems to be inherent in the quote he has from David Brooks. (I don’t think that Kottke quite follows the idea of *paracosm* as Brooks used it in his description of Springsteen’s imaginary at work on European audiences.)

I think he ends up in the usual spot for the bloggerati who have done well — e.g., Kottke himself, Merlin Mann, etc. — with a kind of Thoreauvian mantra of “gnaw your own bone,” which I am not here dismissing. Instead, I find myself increasingly headed that way, indifferent to the professional and institutional landscapes which I have allowed to dominate my own expressivity for too long.