AAAS presentation on MySpace data

Today, i did my first proper presentation of the data i’ve been collecting on MySpace. “Identity Production in a Networked Culture” looks at how youth use MySpace for socialization, identity production, and hanging out. In particular, i investigate how and why youth are (re)creating a public in digital space. I’ve uploaded a rough crib of the 15 minute presentation that i gave there since i suspect some of you might be curious what i’ve been thinking about with respect to MySpace.

This talk was part of AAAS in a panel called “It’s 10PM: Do You Know Where Your Children Are… Online!” The panel was an unbelievable collection of quant and qual researchers thinking about these issues from all sorts of perspectives: Justine Cassell, Amanda Lenhart (PEW), Henry Jenkins and David Huffaker.

This talk went over exceptionally well (much to my surprise). Two teenagers who whispered to each other the whole way through the talk came up to me afterwards to tell me that what i said was true. A mother told me that her 15-year old son would surely thank me because she now understands that there is a positive side to the Net and she wants to start a conversation with her son about it (she had been banning access). Other parents told stories of their teens and quite a few thanked me for putting the scare issues into perspective. I have to say… it was one of the most rewarding talks i’ve given. I feel like i might have done some good in the world…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

54 thoughts on “AAAS presentation on MySpace data

  1. museumfreak

    i really like this analysis, danah. digital publics relate very strongly to a lot of the things about third spaces i have been saying for a while about LiveJournal and several other sites.

    let me know what your overall experience of AAAS is like–i’m curious because that’s something i’ve wanted to attend.

  2. lindsey

    Wow, I really like your presentation on Myspace! I’m in that age group, being 23, so most of it rings true for me (until we get to the controlled space part as I’m in college). I especially like that you put in the reasons why people use Myspace (mine is because most of my friends are there and it’s a way to keep up with them), I get that question a lot. And the part where you talk about how Myspace/IM recreate public and private space respectively, I totally agree!

    I also like that you mention that predators exist in ANY medium, people seem to forget that and then turn places like Myspace into places to fear.

    Very cool especially on the parts about youth creating identity through a digital medium like Myspace. 🙂

  3. Irina

    This is very nice (now, quickly, turn this into a publication! ;). I like the identity building analysis juxtaposed with availability of physical (or digital) spaces in which to do this. I am curious about the following: there is an interesting theory that I’ve read about the public and private relationships that teens maintain. (from here i am thinking outloud, sorry;)

    Seems that for teens, the private set of relationships are the close friendships (3-8 best friends, the posse) – this is where teens learn about intimacy, trust, disclosure. This is also where they get a large proportion of social support in dealing with teen problems that adults miss, don’t understand or often create for teens. These relationships are often comfortable in bedrooms with close doors. Often, this is all the space they need. IM, cell phones and other technologies add dimensions to these relationships, creating near-continuous presence.

    The public set of relationships is the social space of other teens where teens… well… “hang out”. This is a space where they are seen and see others, where they try on public identities, test behavior patterns, come under bad influence, get in trouble – in short this is where they do the public social learning. Your argument is that the physical spaces where this process tends to happen (malls, streets, parks, play-grounds), are diminishing as media fear-mongering combined with suburban living developments ramp up. Instead, we have the rise of “over-scheduled” children. So teens go to digital environments instead (or rather maybe as an addition to the meager amount of public that they now experience in physical space?)

    Ok, now taking MySpace (8+9000) + IM (100’s on buddy lists) + SMS (semi-public addressbooks), can we come up with a theoretical model that can incorporate the public/private relationships and technology use that integrate physical and digital spaces. We know what happens in MySpace doesn’t “stay” in MySpace, it has an effect (however indirect sometimes) on the physical space. We also know that there are fringe teen cases that suffer substantial damage (mental or physical) as a result of adult practices and digital/physical youth culture (combined with SES and other structural pressures). Do you think it’s possible to create a framework that can integrate all of these points?

    😉 should be a piece of cake, no? 😉

  4. rae

    Really great stuff, I’ll be citing you this April in my talk at ACA/PCA. It would be really interesting to look at this in comparison to college-aged use of myspace or facebook and how the use might change as youths are able to control their access to public space.

  5. David

    w00t! danah! I read your presentation notes this morning, found them really interesting, and now have just heard you interviewed on BBC Radio 4 national news! How times are changing: research into MySpace makes it to the main UK news … Give it a while and you should be able to hear yourself here (near the end).

  6. Paul

    An interesting read, Danah. Thank you. I’ve always thought the double entendre of the MySpace name was really clever — here’s my space, look what I’ve done with it vs. get out of here, this is my space!

    Having casually observed someone using both MySpace and IM until the letters on the keyboard were worn off, there are a lot of things that raised questions and/or concerns for me. You’ve answered some of my questions, Danah, and provided me with a different perspective on others. I’m left with a couple of things, though, that I don’t understand very well.

    One would be more a concern than a question, I suppose. Because I had the only computer that could offload digital pictures from her camera, I often ended up seeing a lot of the pictures she took of herself in her attempts to get the “right” picture to put online. For the most part what I saw was a teen experimenting with her presentation. My concern comes from the subtle but clear shift in the presentation’s message that started late in her sophomore year. The desire (need?) to be perceived as sexy, and possibly “sexier than …” which was always there in the background was moving up front. I’m not surprised or shocked at this. It’s part of the process. Actually, what I am is a bit saddened. There is something in this practice that goes beyond saying, “I can be sexually attractive,” and gets close to “all that’s wanted of me is sex.” I’m not saying that this is her, or anyone else’s, conviction — some “fact” to be accepted — but it seems to me that it might be, to some extent, a belief.

    The other question I have has more to do with what effect this being an online community has on parenting. There seems to be some kind of social evolution going on here, two things competing for a limited resource. There’s a natural shift from parent(s) as a source of reliable information to peer consensus as being most reliable. Part of the “control mechanism” that governs the speed of that shift is communication time. The limited resource is time with the teenager.

    The shift from “in person” to “on the phone” to “online” has made peer consensus the most available source of information (not to all kids, but to many). It might seem, then, that peer consensus is more fit to survive in today’s world. And yet the history of evolution and civilizations is full of apparent victories due to a sudden change in the availability of some resource. A question that needs to be asked here is: at what cost to a culture can peer consensus become the primary source of information to younger and younger kids? History is also full of apparent successes that turned out to be evolutionary dead ends.

    Personally, I have an interest in exposing what I feel is a more serious concern. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, social groups abhor a lack of information. When parents aren’t supplying as much information as they used to, who is filling in the vacuum? My guess is that kids think they’re filling it in but it’s really the business world, in particular mass media and entertainment. In other words, it’s still adults, it’s just adults that don’t care at all what gets injected into the MindSpace of teens and young adults so long as advertising revenues are healthy.

  7. Jay Fienberg

    Great presentation. I am wondering if there are some parallels with musicians using My Space: we’re showing off our musical identities by linking to other bands we like or know, hanging out online (when we want/have to be online anyway for one reason or another), and creating a public space online where we interact around music.

    Also, the musician role is maybe not so regimented by some standards: “star” and/or “outsider”. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of My Space as well–teenagers / young adults as outsiders and stars intersecting with bands as outsiders and stars?

  8. Karla

    An interesting post on a topic largely new to me (yes, one or two younger grad students in my department do talk a lot about Friendster, but this gives me real a context to place that in). Your argument makes good sense to me when I think back on my high-school experience. In those days my best friend and I escaped from highly restrictive families by walking to the tiny public library, getting books and records, and then endlessly walking the streets talking. (Other kids had driver’s licenses and cars and went to the beach or the mall.) Tramping the faceless downtown of an incredibly boring suburb in 90-degree heat was the best personal space we could come up with.

    Your paper also clarifies something. I recently followed a link on the blogroll of a site I sometimes read, which led to the blog of a young woman in a study abroad program. As I skimmed the blog, I came across a rather depressed post that mentioned being a little freaked out at having her blog linked to. She felt strange that her personal blog, written for family and friends, was in the company of blogs written by “teachers” (adults). While in part I read this as yet another sign that many bloggers somehow envision their blogs as private (despite the fact that these are published on the internet for the entire world to find–I just posted about this at, your paper also prompts me to see it in the light of a young person not wanting her space invaded by random adults.

  9. Jim Barrett

    No space is not connected with and permeated by “other” spaces. I know of two European tours of relatively unknown musicians with dates, venues and accommodation organised partly thru without problems or dangers (Apart from boarder security and police. The nation state: talk about MY SPACE!)
    Of course this is not the teen bracket of myspace. It is the connections that are important not the inside/outside dialectic. This is what is responded to by the “Danger danger Will Robinson!!” crowd as well as those who see the tremendous potential of network cultures.
    Has everyone seen ‘Myspace on the Daily Show’?

  10. nikkiana

    First of all, I wanted to thank you for posting your presentation notes. I found them to be extremely interesting and I also feel that they’ve helped put words to some of the thoughts I’ve had regarding the issue.

    One of the things that reading your presentation notes has caused me to think about is my own experience. For what it’s worth, I’m 22. I spent my entire adolescence online. I first came online at age 10. I had my own personal website by age 12. I started keeping an online journal at 13 (and unlike most people, I still have my archives from back then).

    The biggest thing that’s changed since I started using the Internet is amount of people using it. I remember when we first got AOL in late 1994, there were only two other people I knew from school who had it. Since so few people I knew from school had the Internet at home, it was not a major player in how I communicated with my peers in real life. Sure, I did have a small handful of friends in real life that I talked to online and as time progressed that handful of friends did get bigger, but when I think of my teenage years on the Internet, I think of all the people I met online that I didn’t know before.

    Being online, to a degree, was my alternate life. I had lots of online friends and aquaintences that I met via my journal, message boards, mailing lists and various online clubs. I carved out an identity for myself completely seperate from the identity I maintained in real life.

    MySpace has struck me as being very “real life”-centric. I know, personally, the vast majority of my friends list is made up of people I know in real life…. Very few of my aquaintences online are associated with me via MySpace.

    That said, I wonder how many teenagers only use MySpace to connect with real life friends, versus how many use it to make friends with people they don’t know in real life and if they do, do they only make friends with people in their immediate area or do they make friends with people world wide… and how many of the MySpace generation ever wander off MySpace?

  11. Heather

    I thought this was really interesting and then when I heard the morning guy on WGN radio in Chicago talk about MySpace this morning {taking the ‘be afraid…. be very afraid’ stance} I sent him the link, I hope that was ok.

  12. Zac

    Having recently made the tranzition from “youth” (lacking uncontrolled spaces) to “adult” (having control of my spaces) I’d like to comment on the continued appeal of technological social tools for me, which I think highlights another strength of these tools.

    Through the use of instant messaging services such as ICQ, I was able to preserve close relationships with a group of friends established in high school for long after physical distance strained such relationships. After moving away from my hometown to attend college, and subsequently gaining access to a good deal of uncontrolled spaces, my interest in instant messaging services persisted, despite the fact that I no longer needed such services to establish uncontrolled space. At this point, making use of instant messaging services to stay in touch just made sense – everybody had computers with fast ethernet access, everybody was frequently AT their computers in order to do homework and waste time, and compared to telephone calls, it was damn cheap. Because of instant messaging services, I was able to preserve and grow friendships that are now as important to me as family. To a certain degree, networking sites such as MySpace are now continuing to help that communication. My point? Though I, as an “adult,” no longer rely on the internet to create my uncontrolled spaces, I DO rely on the internet to create my *preferred* spaces. I am able to create virtual spaces populated with those people I choose when the reality of modern economics force me to be physically far away from those people…

  13. zephoria

    Nikkiana – this is the interesting change since when you or i was online in the 90s… The vast majority of teens use sites like MySpace to extend their friendships from meatspace, from school, from activities. Marginalized kids still meet other youth online, but that’s not the norm at all…

  14. Lawrence Krubner

    Fantastic! I emailed the URL of your presentation to everyone that I work with. I know that many of these ideas have come up on your weblog before, but in the past they’ve been a bit scattered, for that is the nature of weblog writing. But here you bring it all together, in a very nice presentation. I also have to compliment the economy of words – for the ground you cover, this is suprisingly short.

  15. zephoria

    Paul –

    To your first concern… i’m not sure what to do about the girls-as-sexual aspect. I know that it’s age old and has manifested itself in different ways forever. What i also know is that blocking MySpace doesn’t block that, but understanding where it comes from helps frame the practice on MySpace. Dealing with it is a broader cultural question that MySpace itself cannot answer.

    As for peer consensus vs. adult consensus… this has actually come in waves throughout the centuries. Peer consensus has a lot to do with how the Revolutionary War came about – that was mostly teenagers who didn’t understand the Brits at all. Violent uprising? Certainly. Culturally devastating? I don’t know. [The 60s are of course a similar case.] Of course, we send our kids to war as frontline for our international affairs. Perhaps their peer gathering is not so bad. I genuinely don’t know. But i do know that it happens and for good reason, often due to oppression from the adult class. Right now, today’s teens are looking at not-so-many job opportunities (in part due to the Baby Boomers not leaving their positions of powers which means that the 20somethings are doing the service work). Definitely interesting dynamics going on and i haven’t unpacked them all…

  16. Janet

    Dana – are you really interested in communicating with other researchers? I just finished my Innovation Studies Certificate at the U of MN with a paper called Digital Media Innovation of 2005 – Millennials using Social Networks and Blogs for Learning, Love, and Money. I am currently working my Master’s thesis. p.s. we are only separated by two people on Friendster, but I can’t figure out how to use it. MySpace is much easier. regards, Janet (Baby Boomer with Millennial children)

  17. zephoria

    B – this work is part of my dissertation which is intentionally American-centric. Until i finish, i will not be delving into international youth culture explicitly.

    Janet – i’m definitely interested in communicating with other researchers – why? This talk was part of AAAS, alongside a bunch of other researchers on youth culture. Most of what i do is directed at researchers, although i’ve found a lot of it is applicable beyond the academy’s walls.

  18. friendster-cdo

    hi, i’m a journalist from cagayan de oro, a city in southern philippines and i maintain a friendster blog. jzt browsed through some of ur stuff and it’s interesting

    PS i linked this site to my blog. tc

  19. Paul

    Danah, thanks for the reply. Just to clarify, I wasn’t saying or even suggesting that posting of pictures expressing one’s ability to be sexually attractive should be blocked on MySpace, only that I find it sad when such photos slip over to the “this is all that’s expected of me/this is all I’m good for” territory or from “this is me trying to attract the type of person I want to be around” to “this is what I’ll pretend to be if it will attract you (or attract anyone).” This is and has always been sad. Putting it online is a new phenomenon, though, and it’s difficult to gauge the effect this may have.

    My comments regarding peer consensus may also have been misinterpreted. If I somehow implied that peer consensus was in some way always inferior to that of adults, I apologize. I certainly didn’t mean that. What I was trying to say is that between childhood and adulthood there is a process via which an individual shifts from going with adult advice to going with peer advice. This is a necessary and age-old process but that does not obviate the fact that 12-13 year olds are not as capable of making good decisions as either their parents or someone in their late teens or early twenties.

    My question had to do with what effect the web had on this process, specifically because it made time with peers far easier (albeit remotely) and time online was time not spent listening to parents (for better or worse). Are 12 year olds now making decisions based on peer consensus because the time and information is available for that and parents are stupid so who cares what they think, anyway? Add to that the fact that the web (and WebSpace) makes getting information from people who aren’t your peers but are role models for you and your peers very easy. These things are new.

    Again, I would also point out that the actual value of peer-consensus for today’s kids and young adults is to some degree compromised by the fact that it is (and has been) manipulated by mass media, businesses and marketing firms that are paying adults with doctorates in psychology, cultural anthropology, sociology and human development to keep them plugged into the advertising channels and to make them good consumers. It’s disheartening to meet someone in their early twenties who a) believes there’s such a thing as reality TV, b) is over a thousand dollars in debt to credit card companies and c) is “trying to save up to buy the new video iPod.”

  20. zephoria

    Paul – the thing about making good decisions is that it’s a learning process. You’re not as good at making decisions about things as folks 10 years your senior who have gone through more. We all need to be given opportunities to learn how to make decisions, to be guided by people we trust. I look at my 50-year-old male friends going through their midlife crises (of which i know too many) and i really genuinely wish that they had friends who were just a tad bit older to help see them through this phase because god knows they’re all fucking it up pretty royally, resuling in far too many divorces, economic crashes and other messes. It’s no different for teens. But we live in such an age-segregated society that the only people who are looking out for the teens is adults double their age. The reality is that these folks are too far gone from those headaches to be good mentors and, frankly, the trust between parent/child is often lacking at best. Just because a group of people isn’t the best at making decisions does not mean you bar them from having the opportunity – everyone needs to learn this stuff. The result of blocking teens from decision making is a post-home period that is fraught with lots and lots and lots of built up bad decisions with no guidance. That’s not right either.

    Jessica – no, i don’t know of any audio…

  21. nikkiana

    zephoria, one of the things I’ve observed as being very very interesting is that many of the “Internet Kids” (the term I’m going to use for that marginalized group that goes online to make friends) often have a strong dislike or a rather love/hate relationship with MySpace.

    I think part of it has to do with the fact that MySpace often comes off as being designed rather poorly (How often can you really log on to MySpace and not find some sort of error? Not too often.) and the Internet Kids generally have much higher standards and less tolerance for things that are error ridden and poorly designed.

    Another part of the dislike, possibly, is the fact that the Internet Kids didn’t have a big role making MySpace popular. I know I certainly didn’t hear about MySpace the first time via my usual blog and message board connections, I heard about it from a real life friend. Thus, I think to a degree, the bulk of the Internet Kids weren’t introduced to MySpace before everyone else was.

    On message boards I belong to that have teen and twenty-somethings on them, there seems to be a general attitude that says, “I’m too good for MySpace”.

  22. zephoria

    nikkiana – i definitely hear the “i’m too good for it” attitude a lot in the same way that we used to hear that about anything mainstream by any marginalized population. And yes, the weird thing about MySpace is it hit mainstream before marginalized digital folks. I would also agree with your assessment that the folks who live online don’t like error ridden or poorly designed sites, but that the bulk of the people who use digital sites don’t care. Which is the weird thing about the site – it’s mainstream, not marginalized digerati at all. For better or worse.

  23. Paul

    Danah, you’re not responding to what I’ve said, but you’re obviously responding to something. I know it’s a learning process and that experience is the best teacher, knowledge without experience is a fiction, we learn from our mistakes, …

    Yes, guidance from people we trust can be a good thing. Blind faith in that philosophy mixed with people we trust but shouldn’t is not so good. It doesn’t bode well when we don’t know who to trust, either. This is all closely related to what I was saying.

    If you go back to those “how do you use” questions google suggest came up with and consider the implications if they are being asked by 12 year olds vs. 18 year olds what are the differences? Do I want my 12 year old kid getting advice from a bunch of 16 year olds about whether or not he should use a condom (and how)? No and at his age I quite honestly don’t give a shit how old or well intentioned the advice giver might be. Do I want my 18 year old asking that question? Definitely. Do I think he should be asking me? I think that’s okay but I’m also thinking he’s getting old enough to get answers to these questions on his own so I’m more likely to tell him to figure it out and let me know if there’s any questions he can’t get answered.

    All I was asking is what the web and IM and sites like MySpace do with all this when they’re plugged into the equation.

    Your comment about 50 year old males is appreciated. I’m intimately familiar with what you’re speaking of. The “civilized world” has just about completely lost touch with rights of passage. As a result, the qualities for “being a good man” have been floating all over the map for generations now. We’re in a particularly bad “men are stupid” phase right now and have been for at least the past 25 years. It’s ubifubar, Danah.

    I don’t understand what you mean by, “[W]e live in such an age-segregated society that the only people who are looking out for the teens is adults double their age.” That sounds more fractured than segregated. I have a 27 year old daughter who has now worked for years with teenaged boys who need help adjusting to the demands of the real world. You certainly seem to be looking out for teens. What were you trying to get at here?

    You conclude with, “Just because a group of people isn’t the best at making decisions does not mean you bar them from having the opportunity – everyone needs to learn this stuff. The result of blocking teens from decision making is a post-home period that is fraught with lots and lots and lots of built up bad decisions with no guidance. That’s not right either.” I have no idea who you’re addressing with these statements. I’ve said nothing that indicates I think kids should be barred from something or that not everyone needs to learn stuff. What I’m beginning to suspect here is that you know the answer to the question I have been asking and you’re defending “the greater good” against the implications of that answer.

  24. zephoria

    Sorry Paul – i’m more going off on tangents rather than engaging in a 1-1 dialogue or trying to accuse you of anything, more referencing the broader set of concerns.

    Sure, i care about teens as does your 27 year old daughter. But historically, a handful of people is barely a drop in the bucket. Society used to be structured such that people were always engaging with role models 4-5 years older than them. The only role model people have 4-5 years older now typically is in the media. Sure, there are exceptions, but it’s not a broad infrastructure.

    If you’re trying to get me to directly respond to: “at what cost to a culture can peer consensus become the primary source of information to younger and younger kids?” i can only make guesses and share information around it. I also think that we’re talking about two different notions of peer group. Historically, peer groups have ranged about 10 years at a time… generations if you will. Today, conceptions of peer groups are limited to 1-year cohorts due to restrictions on mobility and structural lack of interest in having groups of variable ages. The only place where 12 year olds and 15 year olds are still part of the cohort is in the working class and in immigrant families.

    If you look historically, peer group uprisings have occurred when peer groups build consensus in rejection of their parents and have the bulk to do something about it. Most famously, this occurred in the mid 1770s (although more memorably in the 60s). But again, this is generation peer groups, not 1 year groups. I have no idea where the 1 year peer groups will lead – i think it’s pretty dangerous, personally, but i can only make guesses.

  25. Julio

    Hmm… interesting essay but…. Have you or any of your loved ones been a victim of online predators?? Sites like have become a virtual playground for these criminals. Yes, they ‘try’ to make it sound like there’s nothing wrong with posting a blog online. I work with a federal agency and I give internet safety presentations to both kids and parents. To say that has it’s benefits is an insult to all the parents who have had their kids enticed, harrased, molested, and even sexually assaulted due to an online personal profile or blog. So, I think they should just shut the whole thing down. Yes, kids will probably look somewhere else…but hey, it’s the same thing with hackers, they try to stay ahead…all we can do as responsible adults is to prevent them from using the ‘current’ methods. Just my 2 cents.


  26. zephoria

    Julio, i’ve had more than my fair share of stalkers because of this blog but the rapists and molesters i’ve had to deal with come from my own community. By your logic, i should never go to work again because one work situation turned bad. Actually, your logic is more extreme than that because you’re saying that i should never leave the house because at one point some girl left the house and was raped going into public somewhere in the world. We’re talking 58M accounts. Yes, some sketchy people are out there but that’s not the majority and you cannot lock down a generation out of fear. You have to teach everyone to be responsible, help them understand the possible consequences of engaging with strangers and then let them experience life.

  27. Scott

    I hit wired news this morning and thought, oh boy, it’s officially gone meta and groaned initially at the “backlash” article and the “cheatsheet for parents’. That is until I read them and saw that Wired did a nice job of quoting you (and putting some numbers to the predator claim). Hooray!

    Now I’m just trying to figure out if those schools who, rather than shut down access to MySpace, actually have profiles for the schools are supporting the teens in having a space or if they are trying to coopt it and turn it into a controlled space.

  28. ppd

    Looking at countries where youth communities have around for longer might indicate where the (media) discussion and (adult) “perception” of MySpace will/should be heading?
    Don’t understand Korean (CyWorld) and only passable French (SkyBlog), but from what I know about Swedish Lunarstorm & Playahead, Danish Arto & Finnish Habbo –
    Phase 1. Below the radar.
    Phase 2. Girls/youth + net + sex + internet = irresistible for journalists & others with an interest in what Heather termed the ‘be afraid…. be very afraid’ stance. MySpace seems to be here.
    Phase 3. More balanced view acknowledging benefits & risk, and not least taking inevitability of teen being social online as a given fact. This where I guess you’re talk comes in.
    Phase 4. ?? haven’t seen yet.

    In Sweden, Lunarstorm has worked hard on becoming serious / non-threatening. Not least driven by the market/commercial motives, ie not scare away advertisers.
    Some key elements have cooperation with government & Save the Children etc, hiring more security people & adding safety features, working actively with the media. Slowly-slowly this started turning the perception of Lunar. Seems MySpace is now doing the same.

    However, the watershed for Lunar was during the tsunami (where some 500 Swedes died, so it was a catastrophe “close to home”). Lunarstorm became the place & outlet for grief for youths — with discussions, money-raising campaigns & some 50 priest online consoling. It is know recognised that Lunar filled a role no other media or organisation could have filled.
    As a consequence Lunar entered the mainstream (which of course also meant Lunar lost some/a lot of cachet with the coolest kids;-).

    It’s now said that Lunar is the only Swedish media that could get the prime minister begging to be interviewed.
    Stay tuned for the Clinton vs Rice debates on MySpace in 2008?

  29. Julio

    I may add… that being sociable in public and in person is very, very different than being sociable online. We are depriving our teens of aquiring and even enhancing their sociable skills if we continue to let them use sites like Also, it has been a talk for a while, that SNS and IM are ADDICTIVE!! The more they use it, the more they rely on it for acceptance, etc. Look at the picture on and you’ll see.


  30. Zac

    Julio –

    Regarding your concerns, I maintain the assertation made by others that there are predators in all communities, and we shouldn’t fall victim to fear-mongering. Otherwise, I would say that if you are actually concerned about the effects of internet socialization on youth, take a proactive rather than a reactive stance. Youth – and adults too – turn to the internet because it offers some desirable alternatives regarding socialization. For youths, the internet offers control over the environment of socialization. That is a developmental need. Give youths more control over their lives in the physical world, and more “real-world” socialization will take place.

    Ultimately, I would advocate teaching and cultivating responsibility over reflexively responding to fear and coddling youths.

  31. B


    Being outside one’s house (to take zephoria’s extreme example) is even worst than being addictive: you just can’t pull the plug. The few statistics I have seen about child molesters are clear: far more problems come from trusted person within the family than from strangers; you can’t just get rid of your uncle with a click, either. There certainly is a bias because a teenagers spends more time with his family than strangers—but even correcting from that, figures show MySpace is very much like the safest place to experience social contacts.

    The reason is rather easy to guess: I have been intensively using something similar to Friendster, and nothing made it easier for me to find out who knew who, how and how well—and hence guess who was superficial and who prefered deep conversations. A pretty (or not-so pretty) girl usually has been bullyed enough *at school* by the age of 14 (12? danah, your call on this one) to know that an interested stranger has a high chance not to be interested only in how was her day—even if she’d rather have parents that would focus on that rather than their own mid-life crisis. A quick glance at this stranger’s “friends” and she can take an appropriate call: for instance, what boy of 15 would only befriend girls of 14 and have no mates? If he proves to be dangerous only latter, well, he is one click away of beeing black-listed (I hadn’t time to check on MySpace, but that is an option I have seen in every similar software). Compare with the efforts to get rid of the same molester in real life. . .

    Because brick&mortar doesn’t give the same control opportunity, teens should not be able to give the personal details, I would agree with that. But MySpace is the safest option to me so far.


    Digital Publics of My Youth

    danah boyd has posted a transcript of her presentation, Identity Production in a Networked Culture, which gives an overview of her very interesting research. My thoughts ran off on a…

  33. bob_c

    I thought the talk went well and as you see, I thought enough of it to drop by and compliment you.

    I failed to say in the email that I asked my classes (9th thru 12th) about how their parental units handle MySpace. I have 75 students or so. Of those, 3 had their connections severed because of neglecting their studies and everybody had a page on Black Planet or MySpace. My school is 5% white, 5% hispanic, and the rest black with a residual of four or five asians. Only the programmers had friends outside of the immediate area and only one programmer thought MySpace was lame. The other programmers thought it was for immature friends. Of course they can roll their own.

    Their feelings about elimation of outside activities was consistent. Their feelings about ripping and remixing was consistent with the talk as well.

    The girls are so much more aware than the boys. They know how to brush off flakes when they show up. Some of the boys just stared with their mouths open.

    Anyway, we talked about issues of trust and authority as usual – but this time it had a different tone. Only the slashdotters (the programmers and a few others) understood social currency already. They have a hard time getting points and are in awe of positive Karma.

    Another thing that resonated with the students was Justine Cassell’s leadership study. Several of our students have gone through being moderators over the past couple of years. This together with what they have learned from the engineers at Motorolla has made them think seriously about leadership roles online.

    Tell your buddy who wants to go to the meeting that it is awesome. I only wish my section meeting had not been scheduled during the Irreproducible Results presentation. But meeting some of the gods of science is so cool. The brownies were good too.

  34. Olaf

    You may have hit on a few points, but you’ve not dealt with the fact that an alienated teen will find refuge here, and a “gang” culture will ensue, where the virtual buddies become closer than family…I think that needs elucidation…

  35. B. Waite

    I’m a political science Ph. D. student at the University of Tennessee. I’m interested in the implications of virtual community membership on civic engagement and came across your essay in my research. I’ve also found the posts on this page to be very insightful. Here are my interests. Perhaps you and your “posters” can lend some insight.
    Social capital is important to democratic theory given that the experience of participating in civic activities reinforces norms of obligation, trust, and cooperation. The invention of the television marked the beginning of the Death of Social Capital (ie fewer bowling leagues, fewer literature groups, fewer involved community members, etc.). As television drew us away from our community attachments with its graphic depiction of sex and violence, individuals’ interpersonal trust and personal satisfaction declined.
    But has the internet had the same affect? Much of the research that I’ve come across treats the internet as a one-dimensional medium. In other words, scholars have looked at the correlation between the number of hours spent on the internet and social capital. Not surprisingly, like television, the more time an individual spends on the internet, the less likely they are to belong to civic groups.
    I believe that treating the internet as a unidemsional medium ignores the more subtle implications of virtual community membership. Do you believe such communities are fostering the same personal characteristics that traditional social activities foster? If so, can we expect the trend of decreasing civic engagement to reverse as these young netizens mature into adult citizens? Or are the definitions of “membership” so different for virtual communities (remain anonymous, come when you want, speak when you want, leave when you want, etc.) and real communities (where membership relies on personal, public interaction) that comparisons cannot reasonably be made? I hope you and your colleagues can provide me with some insight. Thank you.
    If anyone is interested in collaborating on a journal article I’m always looking to add a line on my CV.

  36. Lilia Efimova

    danah, do you have any pointers to more reading on private, public and controlled spaces? Thinking of using the distinction in my another context…

Comments are closed.