Tuesday, February 28, 2006

TheirSpace

Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace:
In MySpace, comments are a form of cultural currency.
So what exactly are teens _doing_ on MySpace? Simple: they're hanging out. Of course, ask any teen what they're _doing_ with their friends in general; they'll most likely shrug their shoulders and respond nonchalantly with "just hanging out." Although adults often perceive hanging out to be wasted time, it is how youth get socialized into peer groups. Hanging out amongst friends allows teens to build relationships and stay connected.

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.

By going virtual, digital technologies allow youth to (re)create private and public youth space while physically in controlled spaces. IM serves as a private space while MySpace provide a public component. Online, youth can build the environments that support youth socialization.

When i asked one teen about requests from strange men, she just shrugged. "We just delete them," she said without much concern. "Some people are just creepy." The scantily clad performances intended to attract fellow 16-year-olds are not meant for the older men. Likewise, the drunken representations meant to look "cool" are not meant for the principal. Yet, both of these exist in high numbers online because youth are exploring identity formation. Having to simultaneously negotiate youth culture and adult surveillance is not desirable to most youth, but their response is typically to ignore the issue. ... They want to be visible to other teens, not just the people they they've friended. They would just prefer the adults go away. All adults. Parents, teachers, creepy men.
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. ... youth will continue to work out identity issues, hang out and create spaces that are their own, regardless of what technologies are available.

1 comment:

Snitty McFlea said...

TOTALLY awesome--I e-mailed her to see if I can use some of her writing in a class. I think my students would love it...