Time to publicly update my working definition of vernacular creativity – for the record. The paragraph below will go in my thesis – either right up front in the abstract or as part of the introduction. It should be read as what we might call a heuristic definition, boiled down as far as possible in order to orient the reader. It isn’t a normative definition (an exercise in drawing boundaries); the ‘real’ vernacular creativity chapter is more like an etymological map, if that makes sense. [a very early sketch of that map is here]
By vernacular creativity I mean a wide range of everyday creative practices (from scrapbooking to family photography to the storytelling that forms part of casual chat). The term ‘vernacular’ – as with language, where it means colloquial – signifies the ways in which everyday creativity is practiced outside the cultural value systems of either high culture (art) or commercial creative practice (television, say). Further, and again as with language, ‘vernacular’ signifies the local specificity of such creative practices, and the need to pay attention to the material, cultural, and geographic contexts in which they occur. Finally, I emphasise the need to remember that vernacular creativity predates any particular innovation in technologies by centuries, and that at the same time its forms and social functions are transformed by cultural and technological shifts.
[live thesis update in response to comments below]
The various ‘others’ of ‘ordinary’ vernacular creativity discussed above – punk-influenced DIY culture, creative activism, fandom, and game cultures – are in different ways very attractive to cultural studies (either for their spectacularly creative uses of mass popular culture, or for their apparent demonstration of an evidential base for spectacular ‘resistance’). This dissertation certainly keeps those fields of vernacular creativity in the frame, recognising the ways in which they are positioned as the seductive leading edge of a potential paradigm shift in the media ecology. However, because it aims to understand whether new media allows the populace ‘at large’ to participate more meaningfully in public culture through vernacular creativity, the study deals most centrally with the most apparently accessible, mainstream and ordinary forms, practices and technologies of ‘consumer-created’ new media.