Case Study: Folkwise

Folkwise brings together a community of folklorists to leverage social media and outreach through an informal educational model, seeking to engage with audiences at every level. COVID-19 foregrounded the importance of community building and formation through digital spaces. As digital natives working to build stronger communities online, we took the community creation into our own hands.

The establishment of a weekly virtual Folklore Happy Hour allowed folklorists to build closer friendships and working relationships beyond AFS. We met weekly for months over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The closeness formed in these digital gathering spaces compelled us to create something the field at large had been missing: multimedia outreach projects focused on folklore and the celebration of everyday culture we experience online. 

Our digital projects are more important than ever for communicating to diverse audiences because of the shifting understandings of community potential on the internet across generations. The Folkwise Team wanted to combine our skills as internet-literate folklorists to build an educational platform to discuss the field of folklore in ways that speak to audiences where they are at. What started as a YouTube channel and social media presence, morphed into a dedicated Twitch stream and weekly show, which built community among diverse viewers.

Simultaneously, we developed an accessible community through our Discord server to share information, host discussions, and organize our video streams. We make memes to explain folklore concepts, videos about our research, and most recently move towards a live streaming model, where the video platform Twitch has allowed us to form public-access style folklore-based educational content. While the projects are engaging and entertaining, they also provide a platform for folklorists to share their research interests to new audiences, build the field’s visibility, and present an alternative to academic venues for discussions surrounding folklore. 

Folkwise values: 

  • Accessibility – removing barriers to make engagement with folklore scholarship more accessible to a general audience. This includes creating content in spaces with audiences not traditionally reached by academia, creating content with universal design in mind, and eliminating financial barriers. 
  • Visibility – meeting audiences where they are through consistent engagement across digital media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Discord, and Twitch. Folkwise also promotes other folklore organizations and projects through these accounts, helping existing projects shine online. 
  • Community – providing a platform to highlight the work of our folklore colleagues and community members, supporting them through their journey engaging folklore. We share non-traditional opportunities for professional development in folklore beyond conferences and classroom guest-lectures. 
  • Public Education – creating a “knowledge commons” to share folklore to the widest possible audiences online. Folkwise decenters academic and other established institutions as a realm for these conversations.

The Folkwise Team is made up of folklorists from a variety of affiliations and backgrounds, and the only requirement to participate is a love of folklore. We collaborate with individuals who have a vested interest in folklore across the world, from professional folklorists, to artists, to folklore enthusiasts. Our efforts are publically available and accessible online indefinitely, and are funded at the grassroots level by some of our viewers through Patreon and Twitch Subscriptions. We are developing a community of supporters who have the opportunity to participate in the growth of that community and Folkwise. 

Folkwise is opening the gates of opportunity for individuals interested in folklore to connect across time and space–decentering institutional knowledge to create a new model for sharing folklore content and scholarship online. We hope you’ll join us on our platforms and help our community grow. 

Find Folkwise across social media: 

Folkwise Team Members (alphabetical): 

Daisy Ahlstone 
Kerry Kaleba 
Sam Kendrick 
Kaitlyn Kinney 
Caroline Miller 
Dr. Anna Morel 
Jared L. Schmidt 
Shirley Shields 
Dr. Dominick Tartaglia 
David Tauber 
Christine J. Widmayer

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