My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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3 degrees

Melora Zaner from 3 degrees came to speak at Intel about the Net Generation. She had a variety of interesting approaches to the Neg Gen and since i can’t find a meaningful reference, my notes from the theoretical hafl of her talk are contained within.


Net Generation: 12-24 (broken into 12-17 | 18-24 … aka home or not)
– Typically maintain 5-7 digital conversations
– Mantra: friends, fun, music (school & family are not highly valued)

The NetGen’s prioritization of communication forums is interesting. Face-to-face dominates. Next comes cell phone (SMS or not). Next IM (usually AIM). Then email. Many had Live Journals which are more valuable as a form of communication than email. Email is assumed to be tracked by parents; cell phone conversations are not. Email is for dealing with parents. If there’s going to be asynchonous behavior, use LJ (group commenting).

NetGen only on IM when available to talk. Otherwise, it’s rude to be on IM; log off if you can’t talk. Away messages are not valued to them. MSN is perceived as staunchy and old, not where your friends are. Friends are at AIM.

NetGen will use things that seem much “older” (i.e. older siblings like it… 17 Mag when 12, Cosmo when 17). Friends are the most influential in tech usage.

Melora broke the NetGen into five categories along axes of “adult orientation” vs. “peer oriented” in terms of behavior and pressure.

Isolator: 8-15% (low adult, low peer). Delinquents, drug dealers, outcasts

Non-Teen: 15% (high adult, low peer). Geeks, dweebs, academics. Small social networks. Mostly men.

Explorer: <10% (low adult, high peer). Group that pushes the edge, follows passion. Activists, rebels, freedom fighters, horse lovers, etc. Heavily female influenced. Interests-driven. Status Quot: 25-35% (more adult than peer). Preps, normals. Well-rounded, goal oriented. Often exhibits signs of adult stresses. Visible: 30-45% (more peer than adult). Social, well-known, pleasure seeker, charisma, large social networks. Fashion-driven. On a Saturday night, the visible would be at a party, the non-teen would be at home and the explorer would be pursuing a passion. Mass adoption starts with the explorers, peaks at the point between the visible and the status quo and dies by the time it reaches the non-teen. The sweet spot for determining success is between the explorer and the visible... the "visible leader." MTV focuses on "visible leaders" with 10% focused on explorers for tests Socializing is not communicating. - figure out social network & then navigate based on what they want to do - focus on shared visibility, experience, presence - meet new people to test assumptions about identity (but have high bullshit detectors) The NetGen's online social network included people who are only online (i.e. fellow LJs). No desire to meet these people offline. Online is heavily 1-1 behavior... NetGen deeply desires small group organization online. [Note: without a publication, it's really hard to tell how accurate this is. I don't know her sample size or method for getting this information, but i do think that it's something to think about.]

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12 comments to 3 degrees

  • Irina

    hmmm fascinating… I would say that some of these statements are very interesting and some are strongly refuted by the data that i have collected and/or seen others report. For example – away messages on AIM are an artform. Its rude not to put a message if you aren’t available but logged in. Its ok to be logged in and away though. It is correct that IM is for communicating with people that are online right now (which is why on AIM you can’t send a message to someone offline and teens seem to accept that as a given. hard to say how much of that is teen culture and how much grew out of software limitations that became cultural artifacts?). MSN is for people from other countries. If you ask a college student they will tell you that “MSN is bigger over there (overseas), but its AIM over here”. If you ask a college student whether they use IM they will most likely assume you are talking about AIM.

    There is this strange relationship of teenage culture and asynchronous communication that i find fascinating. One of the reasons is because teens are confined to free accounts if they want to guarantee privacy, which in turn means high volumes of spam. This is frustrating so they refuse to use email unless absolutely forced to (this comes from some of the HomeNet in home interviews with teens about their internet use). This has an interesting side-effect: the asynchrony was one of the features of Internet communication – ability to get information and to communicate on your own time thus reducing interruptions. Teens prefer other asynchronous ways of communication, those that are less private such as blogs or LG’s, yet seem to insist on synchronous communication if they are to use the internet for private communication. I often wonder what kids of implications this brings.

    I believe that watching teen use of technology is paramountly important for social science researchers if we are going to be able to make any sense of how technology use is impacting social networks and social relationships. If you have any other random information of the kind that’s posted here I would be fascinated to hear about it!

  • Irina – i can’t wait to read your reports!

    One question re: IM away messages. Everything that i’ve seen on away messages focuses on college+. I’ve not seen a discussion of IM away messages as the teenage level. Have you been collecting data there? It was the 12-17 segment that she was suggesting was anti-away messages as rude… I definitely see it as an art form amongst the college population.

  • Irina

    The data that was collected in interviews didn’t seem to suggest that away messages were rude, but at that age level kids rarely can have instances when they are away from the computer and their AIM is on because most of the time computers are a shared commodity. It could be that because of these time constraints that are imposed by parents, younger AIM users are not investing their energy into away messages – there is no real use for them in this case. We do have some data about kids under 17 but not a lot and its self-report with sparse questions about IM. This type of discussion is really good though for thinking about creating future studies and what to ask.

  • Pescatello

    This is awesome information. You’d think that this would predict a 2 things: 1) online journal (LJ)advancement would occur so it’s easier to add entries (perhaps using AIM) and user’s would be able to access LJ more easily and in addition ways. 2) AIM will proliferate onto other devices, not just PC (be native on cell phones). Then again, maybe not…

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  • NetGen Wants Small Group Organizing

    Kudos to danah boyd for taking notes at an Intel briefing on NetGEN. Her blog is coffee. She is also consistently one of the most interesting blogs I read. “Melora Zaner from 3 degrees came to speak at Intel about

  • Stevi

    As a 22-year-old recent college grad, I can testify that AIM is an important aspect of college culture.

    Most college students have access to high speed internet and are online 24 hours a day. Many use AIM not only for instant communication, but also as a type of answering machine by way of away messages.

    Away messages are an art form. People use them to express themselves. Away messages may include information about where the person is (“I’m in class”), if they are available to chat (“I’m studying, please interrupt me!”), other ways to reach them (cell number, email) and personal expressions (such as a favorite quote, or the latest news in their life (“I passed my test!”).

    About the blending of technology… through AOL Journals, you can add entries to your blog using AIM. AIM is also available for cellphones – you can have your IMs forwarded to your cell, and you can choose to send IMs directly to someone’s cell instead of their computer (if you have their cell number). I don’t know anyone personally who uses AIM for cellphone.

    There is definately a type of ettiquette involved in the use of email, AIM, and cell phones. I will have to pay more attention in order to be able to describe it.

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