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What is it about myspace?

February 25, 2006

In an age where we seem to be constantly trying to out-react each other, an often discussed subject is the reason behind the meteoric rise of My Space. Without giving it a moment’s thought, bloggers and journalists pull their pet theories out of the hat and place them on the table. Influx is just as guilty as all the rest.

For a change, instead of just reacting I want to draw people’s attention to the work of Danah Boyd . Danah’s important because for the last three years she has been doing the hard work of researching social networks in detail before coming up with conclusions. As a PHD student at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, it’s her “job” to do this.

Danah recently gave a talk at the American Advancement of Science on My Space that can be found here. . This needs to be read so you have a context for the conclusion that we reveal below.

“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. Publics are critical to the coming-of-age narrative because they provide the framework for building cultural knowledge. Restricting youth to controlled spaces typically results in rebellion and the destruction of trust. Of course, for a parent, letting go and allowing youth to navigate risks is terrifying. Unfortunately, it’s necessary for youth to mature.

What we’re seeing right now is a cultural shift due to the introduction of a new medium and the emergence of greater restrictions on youth mobility and access. The long-term implications of this are unclear. Regardless of what will come, youth are doing what they’ve always done – repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture.

Technology will have an effect because the underlying architecture and the opportunities afforded are fundamentally different. But youth will continue to work out identity issues, hang out and create spaces that are their own, regardless of what technologies are available.”

In short, Danah’s conclusion after all her research, is that Myspace is the latest incarnation of a teenage hangout. This suggests that its success maybe temporary and depend entirely on its ability to keep up with the technological demands of its user base.

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