Transmission of Culture in the Digital Age
Jane Yolen, a fantasy writer and anthologist of fairy tales, states that “myth and legend
and folklore can serve four very basic functions in the education of Everychild” (15).
that she lists is “to provide a landscape of allusion” (15), the second, to provide
“a knowledge of
ancestral cultures” (17), the third, citing Bruno Bettelheim, is that “myth becomes a marvelously
adaptable tool of therapy” (17), and the “fourth function of myth and fantasy.
..is much subtler
and much more important.
The great archetypal stories provide a framework or model for an
individual’s belief system” (18).
However, myth, legend, and folklore have been traditionally
communicated through oral storytelling and, in more recent centuries, through reading these
narratives, either silently to oneself or aloud to others.
What is likely to happen to the
transmission of culture, of the “knowledge of ancestral cultures” that Yolen mentions, as well as
the passing on of a culture’s values and worldview, if the oral and literate media through which
these elements have been transmitted are increasingly marginalized to the point where they all
but disappear from mainstream culture?
Both television and, more recently, the Internet have been singled out for blame in the
decrease of reading among younger generations.
In their 2005 study, Griswold et al. summarize
research on reading and state, “[o]verall reading time declines with age, and this decline is
entirely due to a drop in reading books” (130) and, again, “[a]larming reports suggest.
reading may be in decline” (131).
Summing up other surveys, Griswold et al. point to the fact
that an “inverse relationship between reading and television has been a constant finding since the