Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace
American Association for the Advancement of Science
February 19, 2006
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.
Additionally, structured activities in controlled spaces are on the rise. After school activities, sports, and jobs are typical across all socio-economic classes and many teens are in controlled spaces from dawn till dusk. They are running ragged without any time to simply chill amongst friends.
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.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
There has been lots of discussion about the Web-trouble that kids can get themselves into and on why they're tempted to engage in dangerous Web activities. The article which I quote from below focuses on the confinement we've imposed on kids; it resonates with me. I recall ranging freely from the time age 10 or so. I had a huge amount of latitude to decide what I'd do and where and with whom I'd do it. Things have changed so very much. Here's a cite and some extracts: