danah boyd wrote an article that's been circulating recently, thanks to one of Cory Doctorow's boingboing.net posts, about the way that the difference between myspace and facebook mirror class divides in America. It's an interesting piece, and I think that it's pretty good. I could quibble if I, like danah, had more time to come to the right words, but I think it's more important to just list out some thoughts. I apologize for the rough shape of those thoughts.
Like Cory I'm a big admirer of danah boyd's work, and while I've been watching and do enjoy her work on social networking sites on the the internet, I have to say that I've had some mixed personal feelings about On the one hand she's completely right: the age divide between My-Space and Face-book is class reinforced/based; but at the same time, I think the picture is way more complicated, but this is a situation where I'd love to play with the numbers. Read the article for yourself and see what you think. Here are my thoughts:
I think it's important to acknowledge the way that the marketing departments of face-book and my-space and the structure of the sites affect the membership. There's something about being on campus and having a website that reflects and supports that connection that FB is built around. I have a crap ton of face-book friends (600?) but I'd say that the vast vast majority of people who I've at least had a conversation with or a class, or something. There are exceptions, of course. I have far fewer contacts on my-space, and while a certain number of them are people I know in real life, I think of MS as being for really random people I don't know and FB as being for people I know. Mind you I have variations on the same profile, but that's a testament to laziness.
Back to my original point, which is that Facebook as a company has been able to be successful, interestingly by being exclusive, and limiting its membership in various ways. Interestingly the knitting social networking site ravelry.com is doing the same thing, intentionally or not. And I think the implications of this practice have a constructive effect on the community.
I think this officially makes me no longer a participant of "youth culture," because my main thought about MS is "g-d it's ugly, and poorly organized." I think though, that the lack of structure on MySpace makes it easier to to "see" the "subalteran," where FBs conformity and universality on college campus' makes it hard to see these variations.
On a technical note, as a college facebook member from before the HS networks were added, I'm not sure that college students got the opportunity to invite/seed HS networks, and I know that I can't access my the network for my HS.
As I read this, I thought about the way that outside of fiction cyberpunk has never really happened, because the punks have never gotten in (a large way) to the internet/cyberspace, in the way that a cyberpunk movement would expect/need. I'm not sure where this train of thought ends, but I think looking at the subalteran in virtual space, and drawing conclusions about these groups, is a hard project.
I'd be interested in seeing what kind of analysis in a similar vein could be made of LiveJournal. I've always seen LJ as a sort of microcosm of the internet, but I think in terms of "places for sub-culture," that's an interesting way to look at these issues.
What are your thoughts?