Saturday, June 24, 2006

What is MySpace anyway?

"Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace"

danah boyd is a member of the Digital Youth team at UC Berkeley, and has been studying the why's and how's of MySpace since its inception. In a talk to the AAAS she looks at what MySpace is all about and why youth find this digital public space so appealing.

In particular, she points out: "Teenager's space segmentation is slightly different [than adults]. Most of their space is controlled space. Adults with authority control the home, the school, and most activity spaces. Teens are told where to be, what to do and how to do it. Because teens feel a lack of control at home, many don't see it as their private space.
To them, private space is youth space and it is primarily found in the interstices of controlled space. These are the places where youth gather to hang out amongst friends and make public or controlled spaces their own. Bedrooms with closed doors, for example."

So in some ways, though the parent or caregiver may be home, the digital latchkey kid is now left alone in their own bedroom, but with a portal to the entire networked world. Reminds me of 'Alice Through the Looking Glass'. I understand the need for kids to have private space, but I still think the flaw in the MySpace model is that the private space they seek, while away from adults who know them and control many of their other spaces, is smack dab in the middle of space inhabited by others, including adults who are anonymous strangers. Though the youth may choose to ignore these others and focus on their own network of friends, we can't say the same of all the participants.

From the conclusion:
"Youth are not creating digital publics to scare parents - they are doing so because they need youth space, a place to gather and see and be seen by peers. Publics are critical to the coming-of-age narrative because they provide the framework for building cultural knowledge. Restricting youth to controlled spaces typically results in rebellion and the destruction of trust. Of course, for a parent, letting go and allowing youth to navigate risks is terrifying. Unfortunately, it's necessary for youth to mature.

What we're seeing right now is a cultural shift due to the introduction of a new medium and the emergence of greater restrictions on youth mobility and access. The long-term implications of this are unclear. Regardless of what will come, youth are doing what they've always done - repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture.

Technology will have an effect because the underlying architecture and the opportunities afforded are fundamentally different. But youth will continue to work out identity issues, hang out and create spaces that are their own, regardless of what technologies are available."

From danah boyd's blog, a summary of her presentation to
The American Association for the Advancement of Science
Annual Meeting, February 19, 2006


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