A Church With No God: Live Storytelling at The Moth and the Need for Meaningful Community

Garcia, Maria [Browse]
Senior thesis
107 pages


Willis, Paul [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Sociology [Browse]
Class year
Restrictions note
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note
Live storytelling has been used for millennia as a means of self-­expression, empowerment, and community building. However, the swift evolution of technology of our world indicates that communication and oral narrative is becoming increasingly digitalized, thus threatening the power of the ancient art form. This thesis will use a nonprofit live storytelling organization called “The Moth” in order to examine the impact of technology on liveness and community building. Founded in 1997 in New York City, the Moth hosts live storytelling events in a dozen different American cities and releases a weekly radio program on fifty-­two radio stations across the country. The organization has become incredibly popular since its conception, and has even hosted events in Europe and Australia. This thesis will argue that the Moth’s popularity is intrinsically linked to an ever-­growing need for live community in today’s digitalized society. Over the past year, I conducted ethnographic research on the organization in New York and Los Angeles, two cities with the highest concentration of Moth live storytelling events. I will use this ethnographic work to discuss the nature of liveness, the issue of representation of underprivileged voices in society, the relationship between technology and liveness and community building. I will then examine the relationship between technology and live community in a larger context, and argue that the factors that contributed to the Moth’s success can be replicated by other arts-­based organizations in order to fulfill the growing need for live community.

Supplementary Information