Saturday, July 07, 2007

Facebook/Myspace = Haves/Have Nots?

In running a technorati search for one thing, I stumbled upon something else. This Live Journal post points to an Information Week article that reports on an informal ethnographic study's findings that "MySpace and Facebook have come to reflect class divisions in American society..."

According to the study by Berkeley Information Sciences Ph.D. student Danah Boyd, Facebook is home to kids whose paths point them to toward completion of a college eduation while Myspace is the refuge of those whose paths are much less conventional.

According to Boyd's study:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," "alternative kids," "art fags," punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

While these informal findings are of interest, more compelling are the author's own thoughts:

I have been reticent about writing about this dynamic even though I've been tracking it for a good six months now. I don't have the language for what I'm seeing and I'm concerned about how it's going to be interpreted. I can just see the logic: if society's "good" kids are going to Facebook and the "bad" kids are going to MySpace, clearly MySpace is the devil, right? ::shudder:: It's so not that easy. Given a lack of language for talking about this, my choice of "hegemonic" and "subaltern" was intended to at least insinuate a different way of looking at this split.

I need to read Boyd's findings again to try to place her findings in proper perspective as they relate to the larger picture for education.

The results got me thinking about Brian Grenier's survey results and the discussions of diversity they led to. Much of what charms me about the playing field offered by the digital world is its potential to offer a level environment for all participants. Is that flattened field still possible?

More later.

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