|Self-made Modernity through Vernacular Innovations|
|Research concentrating on grass root level developments of modernization provides alternative views for a linear, universal progress of modernity. Similarly, in the history of technology, the scrutiny of local phenomena and actual uses of technology has challenged innovation-centric views and a schematic application of modernity. My study of the practices around bicycle, gramophone and photography in Finland between 1880 and 1939 connects to these lines of research.
Using folklore collection materials and a variety of newspapers, magazines and guidebooks as sources, this research tracks “exceptional typical” practices of every-day technology use, and analyses through them the way in which Finnish, mainly rural, people engaged with the three internationally successful consumer products. Such practices include the ritual showing of the photo album, marking deceased relatives with a small cross in photographs, building box cameras, using class negatives and other outdated photograph technology, excessive complaining about gramophone noise, continuous listening to the same records, using gramophone as a domestic spectacle, constructing wooden bicycles, taking passengers on the top tube of the bicycle, and the phraseologic mocking of bicyclists.
To frame such practices, I am using notions of “self-made modernity” and “vernacular innovation”. These concepts underline the way in which the active engagement of users and non-users, often through concrete handiwork or performative acts, shaped their experience of mass-produced technologies and created surprising collages and continuums, in which modern elements nest in the pre-existing anchoring practices of rural and urban work and social exchange.|