danah boyd on MySpace
February 20th, 2006

danah boyd has just posted a “rough, unedited crib”of her talk on her recent research on MySpace:

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.

Of course, digital publics are fundamentally different than physical ones. First, they introduce a much broader group of peers. While radio and mass media did this decades ago, MySpace allows youth to interact with this broader peer group rather than simply being fed information about them from the media. This is highly beneficial for marginalized youth, but its effect on mainstream youth is unknown.

The bigger challenge is that, online, youth publics mix with adult publics. While youth are influenced by the media’s version of 20somethings, they rarely have an opportunity to engage with them directly. Just as teens are hanging out on MySpace, scenesters, porn divas and creature of the night are using MySpace to gather and socialize in the way that 20somethings do. They see the space as theirs and are not imagining that their acts are consumed by teens; they are certainly not targeted at youth. Of course, there _are_ adults who want to approach teens and MySpace allows them to access youth communities without being visible, much to the chagrin of parents. Likewise, there are teens who seek the attentions of adults, for both positive and problematic reasons.

That said, the majority of adults and teens have no desire to mix and mingle outside of their generation, but digital publics slam both together. In response, most teens just ignore the adults, focusing only on the people they know or who they think are cool. When i asked one teen about requests from strange men, she just shrugged. “We just delete them,” she said without much concern. “Some people are just creepy.”

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1 - TomF

This was a very insightful article that a lot of parents, educators etc. should have to read. It is true that we seem to be losing those “hangout” spaces. It also a bit sad that we are driven to a less personal space i.e. online. My interpretation of that is that on one hand it might be less personal because it is not face to face while on the other hand more my be shared because it not, and then may seem “safer” to “open up”.
Good job.

2 - andee baker

Good stuff, Danah.
Danah, do you think off line that more teens hanging out in places where bands play,
encouraged by MySpace, perhaps?

I agree with your comments Tom, on how more may be shared, though the online space
may seem more impersonal.

3 - Mike

Good Story … regarding technology pushing out public space and impression mgt .. maybe look at mobilities regarding public space or non-places, places of hypermobility. And thankfully D, has dumped frindster in her studies – its set to disappear in the face of mspace

4 - Vr.Gopalan


U are speaking on teens.what about he oldies.They are more vulerable than the teens.
Public places have shrunk for them.Teens of yesteryears are these oldies and teens are and were taken care of by these oldies.
The speed and systemic embeddeness has contributed to this.
Now on one side transparency in systems is advocates as lip service while all remain as black boxes.
People in future are being led by systems and those rule headers who spend their time eking out a living on denial of information and free play.
These are creations of teens only.
Why so much of programming restricting free play.
In areas of convinience and welfare the programming is rquired.Time reduction alone is not efficiencya and fair play.Please publish these views widely to elicit proper responses and initiate good thinking.
Teens are going to sit on their creations ruminating and wasting their precious minds

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