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.”