MySpace gets the Danah Boyd treatment

I don’t use MySpace myself, and having only looked at it quickly had always wondered what the buzz was about.

A couple months back, I did have something of an ‘a-ha’ moment when I followed this link to the MySpace entry for a fictional private eye who occasionally phones in to a funny WFMU show I quite enjoy (performed by this guy, or should I say this guy). The first comment on Scag’s space was by this other guy, who is something of an underground Republic of East Van cut-up of renown — perhaps best known as half of Canned Hamm (who must be seen live to be believed). To see two such relatively obscure and seemingly unconnected personas (linked only by comic sensibilities) connect so directly, and then following the other network paths and finding many more similar linkages convinced me that there was indeed some there there, even if I couldn’t articulate it.

Josie pointed out Danah Boyd’s research on MySpace, which was posted today as Identity Production in a Networked Culture:

Adults often worry about the amount of time that youth spend online, arguing that the digital does not replace the physical. Most teens would agree. It is not the technology that encourages youth to spend time online – it’s the lack of mobility and access to youth space where they can hang out uninterrupted.

In this context, there are three important classes of space: public, private and controlled. For adults, the home is the private sphere where they relax amidst family and close friends. The public sphere is the world amongst strangers and people of all statuses where one must put forward one’s best face. For most adults, work is a controlled space where bosses dictate the norms and acceptable behavior.

Teenager’s space segmentation is slightly different. 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.

Adult public spaces are typically controlled spaces for teens. Their public space is where peers gather en masse; this is where presentation of self really matters. It may be viewable to adults, but it is really peers that matter.

Teens have increasingly less access to public space. Classic 1950s hang out locations like the roller rink and burger joint are disappearing while malls and 7/11s are banning teens unaccompanied by parents. Hanging out around the neighborhood or in the woods has been deemed unsafe for fear of predators, drug dealers and abductors. Teens who go home after school while their parents are still working are expected to stay home and teens are mostly allowed to only gather at friends’ homes when their parents are present.

The whole paper is worth a look.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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