I think it's interesting how online spaces are carriers of cultural identity; no matter where a person is on the planet, online spaces are used to ritualize a unified sense of place through social practices that seek to preserve and expand culture, while at the same time reaffirming social identity. Cultural festivals provide a time and space for the celebratory amalgamation of place, culture, and identity to dwell. This post introduces my genre analysis project on the Zora Neale Hurston Festival's Facebook page.
First presented in 1990, the ZORA!™ Festival of the Arts and Humanities is a multi-day, multi-disciplinary, intergenerational event composed of public talks, museum exhibitions, theatrical productions, arts education programming, and a 3-day outdoor arts festival (ZORA! Festival). I had the opportunity to be the graduate intern for the 30th festival earlier this year, and I worked directly with the creation of programs and other festival genres. While there, I became interested in the idea of place and space in Eatonville and their relation to other spaces around the city. For example, Alice Grant, one of the founding members of the festival and Manager of the Excellence Without Excuse (E-WE) Community, opened her wonderful home to me during the festival season. Her overly generous hospitality and the various free spaces in her dwelling definitely shaped my experience while working and creating for the festival. There was one moment when I moved my clothes in a closet upstairs; I really felt like a member of the community through engagement with place and space. So, spatial engagement leads to social identity and social action, and I am curious to see how this plays out in an online platform.
In a critical genre analysis of the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities Facebook page, I plan to examine how the page as a genre engages with multiple audiences through time and space with certain features that Facebook affords. The field of anthropology has a “festival and rituals” genre that is a part of cultural performance studies, so it would be interesting to see how genres work to mobilize social action within festival activities and online spaces. Although there is not much academic scholarship on the ZORA! Festival and their social media outlets, examining this digital platform through the lens of genre analysis would reveal interesting connections for the goals of the Facebook group. The page allows the festival and its goals to maintain presence in the social lives of its followers. Analyzing what Facebook allows users to do with posts has several implications of space and time that would only be visible on this digital platform.
Such an analysis may reveal the social interactions what would be more effective to emphasize on Facebook and how people engage with elements of place, culture, and identity when interacting with genres and features on this page. If the genres on the Facebook page are seen as shareable texts, both the administrators and the audience of the page play a part in spreadability (spreading the festival's message) and maintaining the presence of the festival by encourage followers to participate in historic Eatonville, throughout location and time. This Facebook page maintains the presence of the Zora Neale Hurston Museum and the annual festival by using several strategies to engage with audiences in very constructed ways that are connected to time, location, and cultural values.
Image 1: Eatonville's slogan
Image 2: A snapshot of a post from festival's Facebook page; the caption reads,"What are your favorite Their Eyes Are Watching God quotes and passages #BLFF19"